Ministers lament Trump decision to delay US embassy move

Jerusalem affairs minister says postponement based on ‘illusion’ of advancing peace with the Palestinians

Sue Surkes is The Times of Israel's environment reporter.

US President Donald Trump boards Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base on October 7, 2017, in Maryland en route to North Carolina. (AFP PHOTO / Brendan Smialowski)
US President Donald Trump boards Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base on October 7, 2017, in Maryland en route to North Carolina. (AFP PHOTO / Brendan Smialowski)

Jerusalem Affairs Minister Ze’ev Elkin on Sunday lamented US President Donald Trump’s announcement that he would not consider moving the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem until an Israeli-Palestinian peace plan is given a chance to succeed.

Elkin, of the ruling Likud party, said he was saddened by the decision to delay the move to Israel’s capital over the “illusion” that it was possible to advance peace with the Palestinians.

The Likud minister had last week rebuked the US administration for its approach to settlement construction, saying that “on this matter, and perhaps only on this, it is continuing the tradition of the Obama administration.”

Fellow Likud lawmaker Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely said on Sunday that Israel “can’t give peace a chance when Hamas and Fatah want to be a part of the same government.”

She was referring to Egyptian-backed efforts to achieve reconciliation between the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and the Hamas terror group, which rules the Gaza Strip.

“If you really would like to give peace a chance you would move your embassy to Jerusalem, in order to ensure that Jerusalem will never be divided,” she said.

Likud member and Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely (L) next to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Ze’ev Elkin (R), during a tour of the “Lev HaOlam” (Heart of the World) organization in Jerusalem on February 3, 2015. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

On Saturday, Trump told a TBN network show hosted by former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee that a decision on moving the embassy would be made “in the not too distant future,” but also indicated it would have to wait for the results of a nascent peace proposal being formulated by the US.

“I want to give that a shot before I even think about moving the embassy to Jerusalem,” Trump said.

Trump promised to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem while on the campaign trail, but like other American presidents has balked at actually making the move, with officials and analysts predicting doing so could lead to increased tensions in the region and hurt chances for peace efforts.

In late May, Trump signed a waiver allowing him to delay moving the embassy for six months. He will need to decide on signing the waiver again in late November.

The Trump administration has been working on a peace plan it is expected to unveil in the coming months, though details about the proposal have been scarce.

The president said the White House is working on a plan but despite having made reaching what he calls “the ultimate deal” a central plank of his foreign policy, did not show robust confidence in the interview with Huckabee that it would lead to actual peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

“We’re working on a plan that everybody says will never work,” he said. “If that doesn’t work, which it’s possible that it won’t, to be totally honest, most people say it’s an impossible deal. I don’t think it is impossible, and I think it’s something that can happen, and I’m not making any predictions.”

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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