US President Donald Trump said Saturday he will not consider moving the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem until an Israeli-Palestinian peace plan his administration is working on is given a chance to succeed.
Appearing on a show hosted by former Arkansan Governor Mike Huckabee on the TBN network, Trump said 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.
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 making 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.”
He added that he believed peace between Israel and the Palestinians would lead to a wider regional peace, “which has to happen.”
According to reports, the plan may include a regional diplomatic initiative involving Israel normalizing relations with Arab states.
Trump met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly last month and reportedly urged him not to pursue any unilateral moves until the US unveils its plan. Trump also reportedly told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of the plan as well during a separate meeting on the sidelines of the world summit in New York.
White House officials have made several trips to the region in recent months, though itineraries indicate they have spent more time meeting Israeli officials than Palestinians, with Ramallah reportedly losing hope that the administration will deal them a fair hand. The Trump administration has taken a much softer line toward settlements than past administrations and has refrained from committing to a two-state solution, breaking with decades of US foreign policy.
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.
‘You will see what I do with nuke deal’
In his interview with Huckabee, Trump also called the Iran nuclear deal “terrible” and said it should never have been made, but seemed to indicate he would not necessarily dismantle it.
Trump is scheduled to report to Congress by October 14 on whether Iran is complying with the deal. He is widely expected to decertify Iranian compliance, but not actually pull the US out of the pact.
“I can tell you I’m very unhappy with the deal. The spirit is not there. They are literally causing trouble,” he said, accusing the Islamic Republic of working with North Korea. “You will see what I will be doing… Iran is a bad player and they will be taken care of as a bad player.”
Analysts have warned that decertifying the deal to Congress could give US lawmakers an opening to impose new sanctions on Iran, which could cause the pact to collapse. Under the 2015 deal, reached by six world powers and Iran, Tehran agreed to roll back parts of its nuclear enrichment program in exchange for sanctions relief.
On Saturday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Trump could not get rid of the deal.
“We have achieved benefits that are irreversible. Nobody can roll them back, neither Trump, nor 10 other Trumps,” Rouhani said, addressing students at Tehran University.
Aiming to show tough action against Iran, the White House is preparing a series of measures targeting its affiliates in the country and beyond.
New actions to be announced in the coming days will focus on two entities: Iran’s Revolutionary Guard and Hezbollah, the Shiite terrorist group blamed for sowing discord in the Middle East and seeking Israel’s demise.
The actions include financial sanctions on anyone who does business with the Revolutionary Guard, as well as millions of dollars in rewards for information leading to the arrest of two operatives of the Iranian-backed Hezbollah.
The measures were described by two administration officials and a person familiar with the unfolding policy on Iran. The administration officials spoke on condition of anonymity in order to discuss the actions before they are officially announced. The third person was not authorized to speak about private conversations.
The moves allow Trump to show he is not easing the pressure against the Islamic Republic, even though the nuclear deal he has long derided may live on — at least for the immediate future.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.