US Donald Trump seems increasingly likely to attend the opening of the US Embassy in Jerusalem next month, and is thinking of allowing convicted spy Jonathan Pollard to come to Israel at the same time, a TV news report said.
The president, who has publicly said he is interested in attending, is being pressured to go to Israel for the ceremony by supporters and donors, Hadashot TV news reported Sunday.
Trump is also considering allowing Pollard, a former American intelligence specialist, to leave the US to come to Israel, the report said. Pollard served nearly 30 years for spying for Israel, and since being paroled in 2015 has been prohibited from leaving US soil, preventing him from moving to the Jewish state.
On Friday Trump said that he might travel to Israel for the embassy opening.
Standing next to German Chancellor Angela Merkel at a White House press conference, Trump responded to a question from the Christian Broadcasting Network over who would attend the ribbon-cutting ceremony. “I may go,” he said. “Very proud of it.”
It has previously been reported that Trump had mulled attending the inauguration, but decided against it. Trump visited Israel in May 2017, as part of trip to the region.
Israeli officials were said to be surprised by Trump’s comment Friday, having received no indication from the Americans that he might be coming.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is currently set to lead the 250-member delegation for the event, which will include 40 members of Congress and Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and daughter Ivanka Trump. Other media reports have suggested that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo could lead the delegation, in lieu of a Trump arrival.
In January, a month after announcing the embassy move and recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Trump announced that the process would be expedited and a new facility would open in May, to coincide with the Jewish state’s 70th anniversary.
Welcomed by Israel, the Palestinians have seen the move as a provocation, and have said it effectively negates the possibility of the Trump administration serving as an honest broker in peace talks. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and other PA officials have since refused to meet with anyone on Trump’s team.
In October last year, Hadashot reported that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had asked Trump to allow Pollard, who must wear a GPS tracker, to immigrate to Israel.
The request came in light of economic goodwill gestures that Israel agreed to provide to the Palestinians at the White House’s behest last May.