Trump Backers Swallow Jerusalem Reversal
President Trump’s decision to sign a waiver postponing the relocation of the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem has put many Trump supporters in the pro-Israel community in an awkward position. Trump’s promise to move the embassy was a key selling point to Israel advocates before the elections, and helped build strong support within the Israeli government.
Now, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is taking a cautious approach, trying both to please his political base, which feels strongly about Jerusalem, and to maintain good relations with the White House. “Though Israel is disappointed that the embassy will not move at this time, we appreciate today’s expression of President Trump’s friendship to Israel and his commitment to moving the embassy in the future,” Netanyahu said in a carefully worded statement June 1, making sure not to sound too critical of Trump.
Netanyahu set the tone for others on the right who were struggling with their response. Israel Hayom, the Israeli newspaper owned by Republican megadonor Sheldon Adelson and known for its support for Trump and Netanyahu, sought to find a silver lining in the decision. The paper’s editors chose the headline “Trump Signs a Waiver Postponing Relocation of Embassy to Jerusalem,” adding
immediately that administration officials stressed that President Trump is committed to eventually honoring his campaign promise.
Christians United for Israel, the largest pro- Israel organization in America, followed the same line, expressing disappointment with Trump’s decision while remaining “hopeful that he will fulfill his campaign pledge and move the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.” CUFI, which lobbied forcefully for relocating the embassy, stressed that “the president knows that Jerusalem is the eternal and undivided capital of Israel and we strongly believe that the location of our embassy should reflect that reality.”
Further to the right, disappointment with Trump was visible.
A White House statement justified Trump’s move by saying that delaying the embassy relocation would “maximize the chance of successfully negotiating a deal between Israel and the Palestinians.” But Naftali Bennett, leader of Israel’s Jewish Home party, argued that “delaying the U.S. Embassy move will, in fact, have an opposite affect and damage the prospect of a lasting peace by nurturing false expectations among the Palestinians regarding the division of Jerusalem, which will never happen.”
But whatever criticism Trump may have sustained from the right, he made up for it with surprising praise from the left. The dovish organization J Street welcomed Trump’s decision to sign the waiver, which it described as a needed move. “We are glad that the administration has heeded the advice of veteran officials in the diplomatic and security communities and decided to maintain the prudent policy of its predecessors on this issue,” the organization said in a statement.
And in yet another sign of changing times, the Palestinian Authority also welcomed Trump’s decision. Husam Zomlot, the Palestinian representative in Washington, said the president’s move “gives peace a chance.”
Going Nowhere: Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu says he is ‘disappointed’ that America’s embassy will stay in Tel Aviv.
Unhappy: Naftali Bennet, Israel’s minister of education, said that Trump’s reversal would make it harder to achieve peace.
Pleased: Husam Zomlot, the Palestinian Authority’s Washington representative hailed Trump’s move.