Trump ‘still reviewing’ embassy move to Jerusalem – White House
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Trump ‘still reviewing’ embassy move to Jerusalem – White House

Deputy press secretary refuses to confirm Israeli report that the US president has decided to drop his campaign promise

Eric Cortellessa covers American politics for The Times of Israel.

The US embassy in Tel Aviv, Israel, June 14, 2016. (Flash 90)
The US embassy in Tel Aviv, Israel, June 14, 2016. (Flash 90)

WASHINGTON — US President Donald Trump has yet to decide if he will move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, the White House said on Wednesday.

“The president has not made a decision yet and is still reviewing that,” Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters at the daily press briefing.

Sanders was asked about a report on the Hebrew-language news site NRG that implied Israeli sources were notified Trump had decided against moving the embassy and would sign a waiver in June blocking implementation of a longstanding Congressional mandate ordering the relocation.

Every president since the 1995 law has exercised their right to sign that waiver — including Barack Obama and his predecessors George W. Bush and Bill Clinton — every six months.

Since rumors of the president’s upcoming visit to the region surfaced, speculation has grown that Trump may announce the embassy move in the Jewish state.

Trump’s trip, which was officially announced last week, comes just before Jerusalem Day, when Israel will celebrate 50 years since capturing the city’s eastern neighborhoods and holy sites in the Six Day War.

He will be in Israel May 22-23, after stopping in Saudi Arabia and before he goes on to the Vatican. He will also travel to Brussels and Sicily for NATO and G7 summits on the final leg of his first foreign trip.

Deputy White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders speaks during the daily briefing at the White House in Washington, Wednesday, May 10, 2017. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Deputy White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders speaks during the daily briefing at the White House in Washington, Wednesday, May 10, 2017. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Florida Rep. Ron DeSantis (R) publicly mused two weeks ago that Trump would use his visit to announce the relocation of the US Embassy.

“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?” he said.

Over the course of his campaign, Trump repeatedly promised he would move the embassy, but since assuming office, he has seemingly stepped away from that pledge.

Sanders, the White House spokeswoman, was also asked if warnings from Arab leaders against relocating the embassy were influencing Trump.

“I’m not going to get into the decision-making process,” she said. “All I can tell you is that he’s still reviewing it and as soon as we have a decision, I know we’ll be happy to report back to you guys.”

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked attends a meeting of the Israeli Judicial Selection Committee at the Ministry of Justice in Jerusalem on February 22, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked attends a meeting of the Israeli Judicial Selection Committee at the Ministry of Justice in Jerusalem on February 22, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

A conversation between Trump and King Abdullah II of Jordan during the National Prayer Breakfast last February, in which Abdullah warned the new president that such a move could instigate unrest in the region, was reportedly a reason Trump decided to delay taking action on the embassy’s status.

Turkish President Recep Erdogan also recently gave a speech saying it would be “extremely wrong” for Trump to move the embassy.

Israel’s Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, who is on an official trip to Washington, said Wednesday that she would push for the administration to keep its campaign pledge to move the embassy during meetings the following day with US Attorney General Jeff Sessions and senators.

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