GOP Israel chief: Trump unlikely to announce embassy move during visit
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GOP Israel chief: Trump unlikely to announce embassy move during visit

Marc Zell doesn’t believe president will use trip to Jerusalem to fulfill campaign pledge to relocate US mission

Tamar Pileggi is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Marc Zell, co-chair of Republicans Overseas Israel, visits the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City on November 9, 2016, a day after Donald Trump won the 2016 US election. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Marc Zell, co-chair of Republicans Overseas Israel, visits the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City on November 9, 2016, a day after Donald Trump won the 2016 US election. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The leader of Israel’s Republican group said Sunday he believes US President Donald Trump will not announce the relocation of the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem during his Israel visit on Monday-Tuesday.

Mark Zell, chairman of Republicans Overseas Israel, told Army Radio that “I don’t think there will a statement about the embassy during the visit.”

Zell’s comments came a day before Trump’s first visit to the Jewish state. Some Israeli and US officials have speculated the US president would use the opportunity to fulfill his campaign pledge to move the US embassy to the Israeli capital.

There has been no movement thus far on the pledge, which would break with decades of US policy on the city, as Trump has seemingly backed off the controversial move early in his presidency.

The Palestinians and the Arab world have fiercely opposed a potential relocation of the US embassy, repeatedly warning that it could spark violence in the region.

On Saturday, top Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat again warned that moving the US embassy would end the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians.

President Donald Trump walks with Saudi King Salman during a welcome ceremony at the Royal Terminal of King Khalid International Airport, Saturday, May 20, 2017, in Riyadh. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
US President Donald Trump walks with Saudi King Salman during a welcome ceremony at the Royal Terminal of King Khalid International Airport, May 20, 2017, in Riyadh. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

The international community, including the US, never recognized the annexation of East Jerusalem after Israel captured it in the Six Day War in 1967. Israel claims the undivided city of Jerusalem as its capital while the Palestinians would like to see East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state.

Last week, a White House official told Bloomberg News that Trump walked back the campaign pledge as part of his wider effort to restart peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

A senior administration official later told The Times of Israel that Trump had yet to decide about the embassy move, and said that any decision to do so “wouldn’t be immediate.”

Shortly after Trump’s visit to the Middle East and Europe, the US president will have to make a decision whether or not to waive a 1995 law that mandates the relocation of the embassy but allows the US president to exercise a delay, in six-month increments, on national security grounds.

The most recent waiver, signed by Barack Obama, expires on June 1.

Trump has made brokering a peace accord between Israelis and Palestinians a high priority, and has already hosted Netanyahu and Abbas at the White House.

Trump is scheduled to leave Saudi Arabia early Monday for a 28-hour visit to Israel and the West Bank before heading to the Vatican, Brussels and Italy for NATO and G7 meetings.

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