No decision on embassy move to Jerusalem before deadline — White House

Administration spokesperson says Trump will not sign waiver to delay move by Monday, but will make announcement in coming days

US President Donald Trump arrives for a speech at the Rotunda of the Utah State Capitol on December 4, 2017 in Salt Lake City, Utah. George Frey/Getty Images/AFP)
US President Donald Trump arrives for a speech at the Rotunda of the Utah State Capitol on December 4, 2017 in Salt Lake City, Utah. George Frey/Getty Images/AFP)

The White House confirmed Monday that US President Donald Trump would let a deadline on signing a waiver to delay moving the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem pass without signing a new one, though it was not clear if an actual policy shift was in the offing.

A spokesperson for the Trump administration confirmed the president would not sign the six-month waiver by its Monday deadline.

“No action though will be taken on the waiver today and we will declare a decision on the waiver in the coming days,” Hogan Gidley said.

Trump had promised to move the embassy to Jerusalem during his campaign, and has reportedly grown frustrated with his inability to do so due to security concerns that the transfer could spark renewed tensions in the flammable region.

“The president has been clear on this issue from the get-go: It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when,” Gidley said.

Officials say that the embassy move is unlikely to be taken outright, but Trump may instead deliver a speech later this week recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Trump has repeatedly missed similar deadlines for other issues, but he is expected to begrudgingly sign the waiver for a second time at some point this week.

Diplomats and experts told the Times of Israel a brief delay would likely not have any policy implications.

“I think it’s an accepted practice in Washington and the US government that an enactment of the waiver that was not exactly timely but still in the ballpark, will still be deemed as fulfilling the requirement,” former US envoy to Israel Dan Shapiro told The Times of Israel on Monday.

The US Embassy building in Tel Aviv, December 28, 2016. (AFP Photo/Jack Guez)

In 1995, the US Congress passed the so-called Jerusalem Embassy Act recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and stating that the US Embassy should be moved there.

But a built-in waiver, which allows the president to temporarily postpone the move on grounds of “national security,” has been repeatedly invoked by successive US presidents, from Bill Clinton to George W. Bush and Barack Obama, meaning the law has never taken effect.

Israel says all of Jerusalem is its undivided capital and has pushed for international recognition. A US declaration or embassy move would be a major shot in the arm for Israeli claims to the city.

In a video released on social media Monday, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat made an impassioned appeal to US President Donald Trump asking him to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and to move the US embassy to the city.

רגע לפני ההחלטה, שתפו את הקריאה לנשיא טראמפ לא לחשוש מאיומי הטרור ולהעביר את השגרירות לירושלים!As we await a decision, share this message to President Trump: Do not be deterred by threats of terror, move the US embassy to Jerusalem!

Posted by ‎Nir Barkat – ניר ברקת‎ on Monday, December 4, 2017

Barkat is seen standing in front of the White House, where he thanked Trump for his “commitment and intention to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.”

Raphael Ahren and Eric Cortellessa contributed to this report.

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