Fulfilling another campaign promise, President Donald Trump reportedly plans to authorize a move of the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv, the country’s financial and technology hub, to west Jerusalem (where America already maintains a consulate). The president plans to make an official announcement tomorrow about his decision apparently selected from a range of options presented to him by advisers, although the move to Israel’s official capital, if that is the plan, won’t happen overnight.
It’s unclear as yet if President Trump at the same time will formally recognize Jerusalem as the Jewish state’s capital, which is traditionally a hot-button issue in the ongoing efforts to reach a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.
Arab leaders and most of the world community oppose the change of address, symbolic or otherwise, out of concerns that it will inflame tensions in the region, but Trump is forging his own foreign policy that runs counter to conventional diplomacy, such as pulling out of the Paris Climate Change agreement and renegotiating international trade agreements. Through Ambassador Nikki Haley, the Trump administration has also pushed back against anti-Israel measures at the United Nations.
The Palestinians consider east Jerusalem the future capital of a Palestinian state. Trump gave a heads up to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, King Abdullah of Jordan, and other leaders about his decision. Abbas and other officials warned of grave consequences if the embassy relocates, however.
Since 1950, Jerusalem has served as home of the Israeli parliament, its prime minister and president, and most government agencies.o Israel is the only multicultural democracy functioning in the Middle East. The international community only recognizes Israel’s authority over west Jerusalem.
U.S. presidents starting with Bill Clinton promised to move the embassy to Jerusalem, but Trump is the first commander-in-chief to actually follow through. The Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 passed by Congress requires the U.S. embassy to be established in Jerusalem by May 31, 1999. The law also allows, however, a president to sign a waiver every six months that postpones the move if required to protect national security. Those waivers have been signed at six-month intervals ever since the law went into effect.
It’s possible that Trump might put his signature to an additional and final waiver to allow the moving vans, figuratively speaking, to load up for the transfer. Congress has also declared that Jerusalem should remain undivided.
Breaking News: President Trump told Israeli and Arab leaders he would recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital, upending U.S. policy and risking unrest https://t.co/A4h4u0lF2h— The New York Times (@nytimes) December 5, 2017
“In his phone calls with Arab leaders, Mr. Trump is making the case that settling the question of the American Embassy could actually hasten the peace process by removing a thorny political issue that recurs every six months,” the New York Times reported.
It’s conceivable that the change of venue for the U.S. embassy in Israel could occur without actual diplomatic recognition of the location, NBC News claimed.
“Some experts believe announcing a planned move of the embassy to West Jerusalem without recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital could soften the blow to Arab leaders.”
FLASHBACK: Candidate Trump at AIPAC's 2016 policy conference: "We will move the American embassy to the eternal capital of the Jewish people, Jerusalem, and we will send a clear signal that there is no daylight between American and our most reliable ally: the state of Israel" pic.twitter.com/EDtG6FAZ4U— Andrew Peng (@TheAPJournalist) December 5, 2017
In the meantime, the U.S. State Department has issued a travel warning prohibiting staff in Israel from traveling in Jerusalem’s Old City and the West Bank because of anticipated Palestinian protests unless the travel is deemed essential, the Hill detailed.
As the status of the U.S. embassy in Israel is a breaking story, watch this space for updates as developments warrant.
Update: In the video below, President Trump officially recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and announces that the embassy will move to that city once a new facility is built. He also reaffirmed support for a peaceful, two-state solution for Israel and the Palestinians.