US President-elect Donald Trump told the Israel Hayom Hebrew-language daily that he intends to go through with his pledge to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem, saying that “clearly I did not forget” the promise made on the campaign trail.
Asked by the paper Tuesday night at the Chairman’s Global Dinner in Washington, DC — an exclusive black tie event for diplomats and members of the incoming administration — if “you have not forgotten your promise concerning the embassy in Jerusalem,” Trump responded that “of course I remember what I said about Jerusalem.”
“You know that I am not a person who breaks promises,” the president-elect added in comments published in Hebrew by the paper on Thursday morning.
On Wednesday, at his farewell press conference, President Barack Obama warned that unilateral actions can be “explosive,” in apparent reference to Trump’s talk of moving the embassy.
Throughout the presidential campaign, Trump repeatedly vowed he would relocate the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. He declared at the AIPAC conference in March he would “move the American embassy to the eternal capital of the Jewish people, Jerusalem.”
However, following his election on November 8, Trump foreign policy adviser Walid Phares appeared to walk back the pledge to relocate the embassy. “Many presidents of the United States have committed to do that, and he said as well that he will do that, but he will do it under consensus,” Phares said, causing some confusion. He later clarified that he meant “consensus at home,” yet what he meant by that is still somewhat murky, since there is broad bipartisan support in Congress for moving the embassy.
The confusion was only heightened following an interview Trump gave to The Times of London and the German tabloid Bild last weekend. Asked if he would go through with his pledge, he said, “Well, I don’t want to comment on that, again, but we’ll see what happens.”
Trump would not be the first incoming US president to have promised to move the embassy, only to walk back his promise once in office. Ahead of the 1992 US presidential election, Bill Clinton pledged to transfer the embassy. When he failed to deliver on his promise, both houses of Congress passed the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 with overwhelming majorities. Since then, that law has been waived by three consecutive presidents 35 times.
However, numerous top Trump advisers have said that the president-elect stands behind his words, with his campaign manager and senior adviser Kellyanne Conway telling Israel Hayom at Tuesday’s event that “of course we support [the embassy move], I think this is something that we need to do quickly.”
Conway’s comment echoes earlier statements she made regarding the embassy, including during an interview in December when she said moving the embassy “is [a] very big priority for this president-elect, Donald Trump.”
“He made it very clear during the campaign, and as president-elect, I’ve heard him repeat it several times privately, if not publicly,” she added at the time.
David Friedman, Trump’s designee for US ambassador to Israel, is also a strong supporter of the move, saying in December following the announcement of his nomination that he was eager to begin working from “the US embassy in Israel’s eternal capital, Jerusalem.”
Numerous members of Israel’s governing coalition have hailed the planned move, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying in December that it would be “great.”
However, the Palestinians have come out sharply against it. Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas said last week that moving the embassy would “destroy the prospects of any political process,” and a spokesman for his Fatah party said it would “open the gates of hell in the region and in the whole world.”
Top international diplomats have also warned against moving the embassy. US Secretary of State John Kerry cautioned earlier this month that going through with the plan would cause “an explosion,” while French Foreign Minister Jean Marc-Ayrault warned at the Paris peace conference on Sunday of “serious consequences” if Trump fulfills his pledge.
Despite the enthusiasm expressed by Israeli politicians over the embassy move, Foreign Ministry Director General Yuval Rotem said in an interview on Monday that Israel needs to wait and see, just as with many other of the declarations and intended policies that the president-elect has expressed contradictory views on.
Raphael Ahren contributed to this report.