Moving the American embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem is a “very big priority” for President-elect Donald Trump, said top aide and campaign manager Kellyanne Conway on Monday. According to a report by Israeli media, the Trump team is already scouting sites in Jerusalem for the new building.
“That is very big priority for this president-elect, Donald Trump,” Conway told radio host Hugh Hewitt in an interview on Trump’s White House transition.
“He made it very clear during the campaign, and as president-elect, I’ve heard him repeat it several times privately, if not publicly.”
Trump had promised make the controversial move several times during his presidential campaign, exciting Israeli leaders who anticipate an America which recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Long-standing US policy observed by every president since Bill Clinton calls for deferring the 1995 Jerusalem Embassy Act, which would initiate the relocation of the embassy, every six months. President Barack Obama vetoed the move for the last time earlier in the month. The next time the bill comes up for consideration, Trump will be in office.
Conway noted that the move was important to Trump because it helps America’s “great friend” Israel and represents the wishes of many voters, including Evangelicals Christians.
“It is something that our friend Israel, a great friend in the Middle East, would appreciate and something that a lot of Jewish-Americans have expressed their preference for,” Conway said.
Along with other domestic issues, Trump’s agenda “is also about a strong Middle East and about protecting Israel,” she continued. “Evangelical Christians always have Israel at the top of their list when you ask what’s most important to them.”
Following on the heels of Conway’s comments, Israel’s Channel 2 reported on Monday evening that Trump’s transition team has already begun the planning stages of moving the embassy, including scouting locations in the capital.
According to the report, the Trump camp is already working with Israel’s Foreign Ministry on the matter, with officials checking on the availability of a certain plot of land in the Talpiot neighborhood which the US government purchased in 2014.
The land, which hosts the Immigrant Absorption Ministry-leased Diplomat Hotel, home to about 500 elderly immigrants from the Soviet Union, is adjacent to the existing US Consulate compound but would only become available in 2020, according to officials, the Times of Israel reported.