Trump still plans to move the embassy to Jerusalem, the White House says. “The question is not if that move happens, but only when.”
With the clock ticking down before legislation enacted by Congress in 1995 would automatically transfer the American Embassyin Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday renewed a waiver postponing the move for a further six months, thus breaking one of his campaign promises that brought him to the White House in January.
“While President Donald J. Trump signed the waiver under the Jerusalem Embassy Act and delayed moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, no one should consider this step to be in any way a retreat from the President’s strong support for Israel and for the United States-Israel alliance,” the White House said in a statement June 1.
“President Trump made this decision to maximize the chances of successfully negotiating a deal between Israel and the Palestinians,” the statement continued. “But, as he has repeatedly stated his intention to move the embassy, the question is not if that move happens, but only when.”
Trump still claims to support moving the embassy, but wrote in a memorandum to Congress that “it is necessary, in order to protect the national security interests of the United States, to suspend for a period of six months the limitations set forth” in the 1995 law.
During his visit to the Middle East last month, Trump avoided reaffirming his support for relocating the U.S. embassy. While such a decision could be implemented simply by changing the brass plaque on the historic U.S. Consulate on Agron Street in western Jerusalem, Trump understood that the act – however limited – would likely outrage America’s other key Middle East ally, Saudi Arabia, where he also visited during his state tour.
Netanyahu: ‘Maintaining Embassies Outside Capital Drives Peace Away’
Israel’s consistent position is that the American embassy, like the embassies of all countries with whom we have diplomatic relations, should be in Jerusalem, our eternal capital, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement. “Maintaining embassies outside the capital drives peace further away by helping keep alive the Palestinian fantasy that the Jewish people and the Jewish state have no connection to Jerusalem.”
“Though Israel is disappointed that the embassy will not move at this time, we appreciate today’s expression of President Trump’s friendship to Israel and his commitment to moving the embassy in the future,” the statement concluded.
“I regret President Trump’s decision to sign the waiver but am certain that he will keep his word and bring the US embassy to its rightful place – Jerusalem, the capital of Israel. I will continue to provide assistance to the US administration and do all I can to ensure that the relocation happens as soon as possible,” Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat declared.
David Friedman, whom Trump recently appointed as the U.S. ambassador to Israel, also favors relocating the embassy to Jerusalem. Friedman said in a statement last year that he looked forward to serving in the post “from the U.S. Embassy in Israel’s eternal capital, Jerusalem.”
Trump will have to revisit the question of signing the waiver again no later than December 1, 2017.