Georgia House: Keep Consulate, Move Embassy
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Georgia House: Keep Consulate, Move Embassy

Legislators welcome Israel's consul general with resolutions embracing the Jewish state.

Consul General Judith Varnai Shorer speaks at the Conexx Gala on Thursday, March 22, the day after her appearance at the state Capitol.
Consul General Judith Varnai Shorer speaks at the Conexx Gala on Thursday, March 22, the day after her appearance at the state Capitol.

Georgia lawmakers took time in the closing weeks of the legislative session to take stands on two important diplomatic issues with Israel.

The state House passed two resolutions Monday, March 19, and presented copies of them to Ambassador Judith Varnai Shorer two days later when she made her second speech under the golden dome in a week.

The first resolution, H.R. 1469, urges Israel to keep its consulate to the Southeast in Atlanta. The one-page resolution cites the large Jewish population of metro Atlanta — among the 10 biggest in North America — as well as the presence of as many as 15,000 Israelis in the area and more than 40 Israeli business headquarters in Georgia.

The resolution also notes that “Atlanta is the heart of the nation’s largest concentrations of evangelical Christians, an important ally of the Jewish People.”

Israel enacted a long-term budget in January that calls for closing seven diplomatic missions over the next three years, and Atlanta has been mentioned as a likely candidate to close. Shorer has emphasized that the Israeli government has not decided which consulates or embassies to close.

The House resolution, sponsored by Rep. Micah Gravley (R-Douglasville) and House Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge), among others, passed on a 173-0 vote.

Ralston went beyond the text of the resolution in saying Israel should keep its consulate in Atlanta for many years to come.

In her brief speech to the House chamber March 21, Shorer picked up on the same points about Jewish, Israeli and evangelical populations and business connections in thanking the House for reaffirming the bonds of cooperation between Georgia and Israel.

“I’m overwhelmed, and I thank you for your strong, continuous support of Israel, especially this year as we celebrate our 70th year of independence,” Shorer said. “It’s not much, but it’s a lot for the Jewish people.”

She also used her appearance to thank the House, as she had thanked the Senate one week earlier, for voting unanimously for legislation that authorizes the Georgia Commission on the Holocaust to begin looking for a site and a design for a privately funded, state-owned Holocaust memorial.

Such a state memorial “means a great deal to the Jewish community,” said Shorer, the daughter of Holocaust survivors.

In introducing Shorer, Ralston called her a great leader and said the House was honored to have her.

He also emphasized the special bond between the United States and Israel, which he called one of America’s “true, great allies.”

The two nations share the bond of cherishing and pursuing freedom and peace, Ralston said. “As a result, both are targeted and terrorized by those who wish to spread fear and violence.”

H.R. 1470, also sponsored by Gravley and Ralston, was more controversial, within the Jewish community as well as in the state House, which approved it on a 117-43 vote. The measure commends President Donald Trump for his decision to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem and thus treat Israel as the United States treats every other sovereign nation.

“The members of this body recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and urge the President of the United States to relocate the United States Embassy to Israel’s capital,” the resolution reads.

After recognizing Jerusalem (borders undefined) as Israel’s capital in December, Trump has announced plans to open a temporary embassy in Jerusalem in May, when Israel will mark its 70th birthday on the secular calendar.

Closing her remarks by emphasizing her appreciation for all the pro-Israel bills and resolutions in both chambers this year, Shorer said she was especially happy with the last two H.R. 1469 and H.R. 1470: “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

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