Despite embassy relocation, Trump signs presidential waiver
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Despite embassy relocation, Trump signs presidential waiver

As his predecessors have done for years, president temporarily suspends implementation of Jerusalem Embassy Act -- because the ambassador's residence still hasn't moved

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and US President Donald Trump's daughter and adviser Ivanka Trump unveil the inauguration plaque during the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem on May 14, 2018. (AFP Photo/Menahem Kahana)
US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and US President Donald Trump's daughter and adviser Ivanka Trump unveil the inauguration plaque during the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem on May 14, 2018. (AFP Photo/Menahem Kahana)

US President Donald Trump on Monday signed a presidential waiver that suspends for six months a law mandating the US embassy be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem — despite the fact that the embassy officially opened in Jerusalem last month.

Trump’s move was necessitated by the fact that the ambassador’s official residence has not yet been relocated to the capital.

Like all his predecessor have done every six months since the Jerusalem Embassy Act took effect in 1998, Trump signed a memorandum in which he determined “that it is necessary, in order to protect the national security interests of the United States, to suspend” for half a year the full implementation of the law.

“In addition to requiring a move of the embassy, the Jerusalem Embassy Act also requires a transfer of the chief of mission residence. Until that transfer is completed, the waiver that is provided under the Act remains necessary,” a US embassy official told The Times of Israel on Tuesday.

Section 3 of the Jerusalem Embassy Act, which lays out the actual policy change required, only states that “the United States Embassy in Israel should be established in Jerusalem.” But section 8 clarifies that “the term ‘United States Embassy’ means the offices of the United States diplomatic mission and the residence of the United States chief of mission.”

The new US embassy in the capital’s Arnona neighborhood opened with a large ceremony on May 14 attended by senior US officials. But the official residence of the American ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, currently is still in the Tel Aviv suburb of Herzliya.

Speaking to The Times of Israel last week, Friedman said his team has started “looking at” acquiring an official residence, but explained that for the time being he divides his time between Jerusalem and the Tel Aviv area.

“There’s the house in Herzliya and I have a residence in Jerusalem,” he said. “Over time there will have to be a transition where the chief-of-mission residence moves to Jerusalem. But that’s also going to take some time and planning.”

US Independence Day party at the US ambassador’s Herzliya residence in 2012 (CC BY SA US Embassy/Flickr)

In recent years, the embassy’s annual Independence Day ceremony was held at the ambassador’s Herzliya residence. This year, the event, scheduled for July 3, will take place at a venue in Airport City, outside of Tel Aviv.

“The decision to hold this year’s reception at an event hall was made for practical reasons, including guest comfort, budget, security, and convenience,” a US embassy official told The Times of Israel.

It is not the first time the Independence Day reception has been held at a venue other than the Chief of Mission Residence in Herzliya, the official said.

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