US confirms no more presidential waivers for Jerusalem Embassy Act
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US confirms no more presidential waivers for Jerusalem Embassy Act

Even though Trump moved the embassy last year, he continued to sign the waiver until the ambassador’s official residence moved to the capital in March

US President Donald Trump, right, listens to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during a press conference after a summit of heads of state and government at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, July 12, 2018. (Geert Vanden Wijngaert/AP)
US President Donald Trump, right, listens to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during a press conference after a summit of heads of state and government at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, July 12, 2018. (Geert Vanden Wijngaert/AP)

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Wednesday that he had notified Congress that no more presidential waivers will be required deferring the full implementation of a 1995 law that recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and mandated moving the US embassy to that city.

“On May 14, 2018, the US Embassy in Jerusalem officially opened for business,” Pompeo said in a statement. “Now, as we near the first anniversary of that momentous event, I am pleased to report that I have provided my determination to Congress that the relevant elements of the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 have been addressed. Accordingly, no further Presidential waiver of the funding restriction under the Act is necessary.”

The Jerusalem Embassy Act passed called on the administration to recognize the city as Israel’s capital and relocate the embassy there.

However, the law allowed for the president to waive the move if he or she deemed it detrimental to American national security interests. Since its passing, every US president — Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama — has signed the waiver every six months, despite Bush and Clinton having promised to move the embassy during their respective campaigns.

On December 6, 2017, US President Donald Trump formally recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and vowed to move the embassy there, in a move that infuriated Palestinians and caused them to cut ties with Washington.

US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman at the US Embassy in Jerusalem, May 30, 2018, posing ahead of a Times of Israel interview (Matty Stern, US embassy Jerusalem)

Trump fulfilled that promise on May 14, 2018, when the US embassy in Jerusalem was opened on David Flusser Street, in the building that until that point had served as the US consulate. However, he then continued signing the waiver because the ambassador’s official residence had not yet been relocated to the capital, as stipulated by the 1995 law.

But since US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman took up official residence in a facility on Agron Street in Jerusalem in March, the waiver Trump signed on December 7, 2018 has now been confirmed to have been the last one.

“In March 2019, in consultation with the Government of Israel, we established a chief of mission residence in Jerusalem,” Pompeo said Wednesday. “I have therefore determined that the US Embassy in Jerusalem, including the chief of mission residence, is officially open, consistent with the Act.”

According to a Channel 12 report last month, Trump intends to move the US embassy into a new, permanent building during his second term, provided he wins the 2020 presidential race. He may travel to Jerusalem for the laying of the cornerstone during the election campaign, according to the report, which said administration officials were scouting for a site for the permanent embassy.

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