Just a few days prior to US President Donald Trump’s first official visit to Israel, a White House official announced that Trump has decided not to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem for the moment. The official who had asked not to be identified told Bloomberg News that the new decision was aimed at avoiding any and all provocations that could jeopardize peace talks with the Palestinians.
“We are talking here about a delay for half a year, so nothing is definite,” Deputy Defense Minister Eli Ben-Dahan told Tazpit Press Service (TPS). “I think President Trump will come here and get a feel of what united Jerusalem is really like and I am convinced that he will see that the city belongs to the State of Israel and that our demand is legitimate and important.”
Ben-Dahan argued that the US administration officials who had placed pressure on Trump regarding the embassy and the administration’s position on Jerusalem were remnants of the Obama administration, which had adopted a clear pro-Palestinian stance.
“What is most important on Israel’s part is for Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu make clear to President Trump that Israel expects the embassy to be moved to Jerusalem when Trump visits next week,” continued Ben-Dahan. “Once President Trump understands our determination and unequivocally takes a stand in favor of the move, his administration and all the other countries will follow.”
Senior officials at the State Department and Defense Department had recently demanded that Trump prevent the relocation of the embassy to Jerusalem and had even asked the White House not to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, claiming it would harm the peace process. According to the official quoted on Bloomberg News, the US administration considers its discussions with both the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority to be promising, with the Palestinians in particular agreeing to talk without preconditions.
“I am very sorry about this decision,” Chairman of the Knesset Lobby for US-Israel Relations and Zionist Union MK Dr. Nachman Shai told TPS. “The US embassy and the other embassies ought to be in Jerusalem. This is their place.”
“The question of the location of the embassy should be separate from politics,” continued Shai. “Jerusalem is the capital of Israel.”
On Sunday, after US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made statements that Trump was still debating the issue, Prime Minister Netanyahu contended that moving the embassy would not harm the peace process, rather that it would do the opposite.
President Trump sent envoy Jason Greenblatt to the region in March to begin talks on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and met with both Prime Minister Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas at the White House. He is scheduled to meet with Netanyahu in Jerusalem and Abbas in Bethlehem during his visit to the country.