Trump Admin Still Considering Moving U.S Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem

Slow-roll of embassy move causing frustration in pro-Israel community

Donald Trump
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• May 10, 2017 1:52 pm


The Trump administration is disputing Israeli media reports claiming that the president is no longer committed to moving the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which candidate Donald Trump vowed to do while campaigning for the presidency, according to U.S. officials familiar with the situation.

Reports emerged in Israeli media late Tuesday claiming that Trump was about to walk back one of his campaign promises: Relocating the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, a move that officially would recognize the ancient city as Israel's capital.

While U.S. law has long mandated the embassy be moved to Jerusalem, presidents going back to George W. Bush have issued executive waivers preventing the law from being implemented. Pro-Israel insiders had speculated that Trump would not reissue the waiver when it expires next month, setting the stage for the embassy to move.

Pro-Israel officials in Washington, D.C. hoped that Trump would announce the embassy move when he traveled to Israel later this month. However, senior U.S. officials familiar with the matter told the Washington Free Beacon that this was never on the table and that no announcement will be made, a disclosure likely to further discourage Trump's pro-Israel supporters.

Trump administration sources confirmed to the Free Beacon that the embassy move is still under consideration, but that the process is in its infant stages.

The administration continues to review the policy, which has caused an increasing level of frustration among pro-Israel Trump supporters who had hoped the process would be carried out more quickly.

"We are at the early stages of the decision-making process on this, and no decision has yet been taken," a State Department official who was not authorized to speak on record told the Free Beacon Wednesday afternoon. "The president said he is giving serious thought to the matter, we are looking at it with great care, and we'll see what happens."

Senior White House officials familiar with the situation further confirmed to the Free Beacon that no formal decision has been reached on the embassy move, despite a flurry of discussions in the Israeli media.

"The President has been very clear that he wants to move the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, but even more than that he wants to ensure Israel's security and make concrete progress towards a peaceful resolution of the Palestinian issue," one senior administration official told the Free Beacon. "The timing of the Embassy move has to be decided in that framework, and to date no decision has been made."

In recent weeks, pro-Israel supporters of Trump have quietly begun to express frustration over what they see as the president's waning commitment to the Jewish state since taking office, according to multiple sources.

While Trump promised to move the U.S. embassy in the first days of his presidency, the issue has largely fallen to the wayside.

Multiple pro-Israel officials, including several with close ties to the administration, told the Free Beacon that Trump's Israel policy largely has resembled that of former President Barack Obama. The lack of concrete action on the embassy move and a range of other pro-Israel priorities has caused friction between the White House and some of its closest pro-Israel supporters, sources said.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson came under fire from a leading pro-Israel Democrat earlier this week following disclosures that the U.S. Embassy in Saudi Arabia edited out Israel from a promotional video highlighting Trump's trip to the region later this month.

"At a time when the United States should be encouraging the governments of the region—and their people—to promote tolerance, respect and mutual recognition this video implies that the U.S. accepts Saudi Arabia's public rejectionist position toward Israel," Rep. Eliot Engel (D., N.Y.) wrote in a letter to Tillerson.

The Israeli government reportedly is on board with Trump's decision to slow-roll the embassy move, which likely would spark outrage among Palestinian leaders. Trump has insisted in recent weeks that the Middle East peace process remains one of his top priorities.

Update 4:50 p.m.: This article has been updated to include additional reporting.

Published under: Israel, Trump Administration