Despite President Donald Trump’s landmark declaration last week that the US would move its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, the actual move is unlikely to happen for at least three years, said US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Tuesday.
“It’s not going to be anything that happens right away. Probably no earlier than three years out, and that’s pretty ambitious,” cautioned Tillerson in a speech at the State Department, the New York Times reported.
He was echoing comments he made on Friday after talks in Paris with the French Foreign Minister, when he said the move was “not something that is going to happen this year or probably not next year.”
However, he reassured concerned parties that Trump seeks to make the move “in a very concrete” way.
“The president does want us to move in a very concrete, very steadfast way to ensure the embassy is located in Jerusalem when we’re able to do so, at the earliest possible time,” he said in Paris.
Tillerson pointed out that the process of establishing a new embassy was a complex one requiring many steps, including acquiring a site in Jerusalem, developing plans, getting Congressional approval for spending, and then constructing the building itself.
He also emphasized that Trump’s historic pronouncement last Wednesday, which, in addition to affirming the embassy move, also recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, “did not indicate any final status for Jerusalem” in terms of borders impacting a possible peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, a deal the president still hopes to make during his tenure.
While Trump said he would move the embassy, he did not trigger the 1995 Jerusalem Embassy Act, which requires the US to make the move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem but has always been put off at six-month intervals with presidential waivers.
Rather than letting the waiver elapse after his declaration, the president signed it, delaying the move at least another six months.