A US official on Thursday denied reports that President Donald Trump had decided to indefinitely postpone moving the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
“Contrary to media reports, President Trump has not yet made a decision on moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem and doesn’t plan on making a decision on this issue until after his visit,” the official said.
On Wednesday, a White House official told Bloomberg News that Trump was backing off his campaign promise to move the embassy in order to preserve his efforts to restart peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.
A senior administration official later appeared to confirm the report to The Times of Israel, saying that a decision to relocate the embassy “wouldn’t be immediate” and that “a final decision hadn’t been made.”
The conflicting signals out of the White House come days before Trump is set to land in Israel as part of his first foreign trip.
Trump’s trip to Israel and the West Bank from May 22 to 23 — just before Jerusalem Day, when Israel will mark the fiftieth anniversary of the Six Day War — will come after a stop in Saudi Arabia.
The timing of the visit led to intense speculation as to whether he would use the opportunity to fulfill his repeated campaign pledge to relocate the embassy.
Trump seemingly backed off his promise early in his presidency. It was reported that his conversation with King Abdullah II of Jordan at the National Prayer Breakfast in February was instrumental to his decision to put the issue on the back burner.
Leaders in the West and the Arab world had warned that moving the embassy could inflame tensions in the region, a factor the White House seemed to take into account when deciding to hold off on the move, according to Bloomberg.
“We don’t think it would be wise to do it at this time,” the official told Bloomberg. “We’ve been very clear what our position is and what we would like to see done, but we’re not looking to provoke anyone when everyone’s playing really nice.”
Shortly after Trump’s visit to the region, he will have to make a decision whether or not to waive a 1995 law that mandates the relocation of the embassy but allows the president to exercise six-month delays on national security grounds.
The most recent waiver, signed by Barack Obama, expires on June 1.
Trump has placed a high priority on trying to broker a peace accord between Israelis and Palestinians. He has already hosted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at the White House.
He will meet with them again next week — with Netanyahu in Jerusalem and with Abbas in Bethlehem.