Speaking at a Washington event for Israel’s 69th Independence Day on Tuesday, Vice President Mike Pence said that President Donald Trump is still seriously considering moving the US embassy to the capital.
“As we speak, [the White House] is giving serious consideration to moving the American embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem,” said Pence, earning applause from the pro-Israel Washington elite attending the reception.
The event itself, held in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building and attended by US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, Israeli Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Texas Senator Ted Cruz among others, marked a significant moment in US-Israel relations. It was the first time in recent memory “that the White House has hosted a reception commemorating Israel Independence Day,” Friedman said, calling Pence a “champion of Israel.”
VP Pence Speaks on Israel’s Independence Day
While few doubt the administration’s clear dedication to Israel, the embassy issue remains in the air. Various conflicting reports have emerged recently about Trump’s campaign promise to move the embassy, which had excited Israeli leadership and many pro-Israel American voters. Israeli media reported last month that while Trump would recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital during his first state visit, said to be scheduled for May, he would not announce the moving of the embassy.
However, just a few days after that report, Republican Congressman Ron DeSantis speculated that Trump would indeed make that announcement during his visit, asking, “What better time could there be to announce the relocation of the US embassy to Jerusalem than when you are over here celebrating with our Israeli friends this very important 50th anniversary of the liberation of Jerusalem?”
Trump’s visit will coincide with country-wide celebrations of Jerusalem Day, especially significant this year as it celebrates the 50th anniversary of Israel’s victory in the Six Day War. It will also come as the bill which mandates the moving of the embassy lands on Trump’s desk for its biannual reassessment. The Jerusalem Embassy Act, first signed into law in 1995, has been duly waived at six-month intervals by every sitting president since it was passed.
DeSantis has said that he expects Trump will not renew the veto but instead allow the bill to pass, putting his words into actions and starting the process that will lead to the embassy’s move.
But messages from the White House have been mixed. As Trump prepares to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in hopes of crafting a peace deal, he has appeared to soften his stance on the embassy in order to finesse the Palestinian leader.
However, the vice president’s Independence Day statement may reassure Trump’s Israeli allies.
Calling Israel’s 1948 establishment “nothing short of a miracle”, Pence once more vowed that Israel and America’s ties would only strengthen.
“Under President Donald Trump … the world will know this — America stands with Israel. Her cause is our cause. Her values are our values. Her fight is our fight,” he said, adding that the leader “stands without apology for Israel, and he always will.”
“The best days for Israel and for America are yet to come,” he concluded, possibly referring to the embassy move.