Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked said Saturday she believed the failure to secure the US Embassy’s move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem during US President Donald Trump’s first 100 days in office was a great missed opportunity.
“I think there was a great historic opportunity here that was missed… It’s a great loss,” Shaked said during an interview with Israeli Channel 2’s “Meet the Press.”
Though Shaked noted that the relocation — promised by Trump during his campaign — could still take place, she said Trump may have succumbed to heavy pressure not to move the embassy.
The minister, of the nationalist Jewish Home party, lamented what she implied to be an Israeli failure to take advantage of the Trump administration’s early openness to a different approach to the conflict — an attitude she seemed to believe no longer prevailed in the White House.
“When he entered office, he and his administration were open to many different possibilities. They were not fixed in their ways by spending years in the State Department,” she said. “Either this was not taken advantage of, or someone over there influenced them… It’s a great loss.
“I thought there was a great historic opportunity here to think outside the box, to exit this track of Palestinian statehood as it was discussed up to this day, to change direction, but that did not happen.”
Asked if she was criticizing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the minister insisted she was not.
Shaked further commented that she believed it would be a “lost cause” for the Trump administration to currently push for a peace deal.
“I think [such an idea] is hopeless,” she said. “It’s a pity for them to waste their time to come to the Middle East and try to reach an agreement when the gaps between the Palestinians and Israel are too big.”
On Thursday, Trump refused to confirm if he would announce the transfer of the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, but hinted that he may clarify the issue during his upcoming visit to the region.
At the same time, Florida Rep. Ron DeSantis (R), who earlier this year led a one-man fact-finding trip to scout locations for the embassy, said Trump would announce the relocation when he visits Israel at the end of May.
Asked about the relocation by Reuters, Trump demurred. “Ask me in a month on that,” he told the news agency.
Trump also appeared to express frustration with the age-old conflict, saying there was no reason for it to persist.
“I want to see peace with Israel and the Palestinians,” he said. “There is no reason there’s not peace between Israel and the Palestinians — none whatsoever.”
Trump has said several times that he would work to broker an agreement to end the conflict, citing his business acumen and saying peace would be “the ultimate deal.”
He is due to host Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Washington early next month.
Trump had promised during his campaign to move the embassy, but has yet to follow through, with initial excitement in Israel dampening as the administration said it was only starting to explore the issue.
Following meetings with Arab leaders since taking office, and especially Jordan’s King Abdullah II at the National Prayer Breakfast, Trump said he would like to see the move take place eventually but that he wouldn’t go through with it right away.
Trump is set to visit Israel next month, reportedly from May 22-23; on the night of May 23 and on May 24, , Israel will celebrate Jerusalem Day, which will mark the 50th anniversary since Israel’s capture of East Jerusalem in 1967 and the subsequent unification of the capital.
“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?” DeSantis said.
The trip will also come a week before a waiver signed by predecessor Barack Obama pushing off the embassy relocation for security reasons will expire. Trump will have to decide at that point whether to extend the waiver another six months or let it lapse and move the embassy.
Congress passed a law in 1995 mandating the embassy be moved to Jerusalem, but allowed the president to exercise a six-month waiver on national security grounds. Every president since, including Obama’s predecessors George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, signed such a waiver every six months.
The embassy relocation would be a highly symbolic gesture, valued by Israel as confirmation of the city as its capital, but strongly opposed by Palestinians and the Arab world.
Trump’s pick to serve as US ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, was also highly vocal in his belief that the president would move the embassy, saying in an announcement of his nomination that he expected to carry out his duties in Jerusalem.
Friedman is due to arrive in Jerusalem on May 15 and to present his credentials to President Reuven Rivlin in June.