Move of em­bassy de­layed by U.S.

Trump had promised to re­lo­cate from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, but he fol­lows prece­dent.

Los Angeles Times - - THE WORLD - By Tracy Wilkin­son and Brian Ben­nett tracy.wilkin­son@la­times.com brian.ben­nett@la­times.com Spe­cial cor­re­spon­dent Joshua Mit­nick in Tel Aviv con­trib­uted to this re­port.

WASH­ING­TON — With an eye to­ward a po­ten­tial Mid­dle East peace deal, Pres­i­dent Trump on Thurs­day is­sued a waiver that de­lays mov­ing the U.S. Em­bassy in Is­rael to Jerusalem for at least six months, a de­ci­sion in keep­ing with pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tions.

The move marks a re­ver­sal for Trump, who re­peat­edly vowed dur­ing last year’s cam­paign to swiftly move the em­bassy from Tel Aviv, where it has al­ways been lo­cated, to Jerusalem. Other can­di­dates have made the same prom­ise, but no pres­i­dent has ever fol­lowed through.

Is­rael con­sid­ers Jerusalem its cap­i­tal, but the Pales­tini­ans claim East Jerusalem for their cap­i­tal in a fu­ture state.

The U.S. and most ma­jor world pow­ers agree that the sta­tus of Jerusalem should be set­tled in ne­go­ti­a­tions be­tween Is­rael and the Pales­tini­ans, and no coun­try keeps its em­bassy in Jerusalem be­cause of the dis­pute.

In a state­ment, the White House said Trump made this de­ci­sion "to max­i­mize the chances of suc­cess­fully ne­go­ti­at­ing a deal be­tween Is­rael and the Pales­tini­ans."

It added, "But as he has re­peat­edly stated his in­ten­tion to move the em­bassy, the ques­tion is not if that move hap­pens, but only when."

Af­ter Trump took of­fice, Jor­dan's King Ab­dul­lah and other Arab lead­ers warned the White House that mov­ing the em­bassy would en­rage Arab com­mu­ni­ties, es­pe­cially the Pales­tini­ans, and se­verely com­pli­cate any peace talks.

Since then, the White House has said Trump is re­view­ing the mat­ter. Dur­ing his visit to the Mid­dle East last month, he met with both Is­raeli and Pales­tinian lead­ers and called for a re­sump­tion of ne­go­ti­a­tions to­ward what he has called “the ul­ti­mate deal.”

Mov­ing the em­bassy is a pri­or­ity for many Repub­li­can evan­gel­i­cals in Trump’s po­lit­i­cal base, as well as some of his Jewish sup­port­ers.

Pres­i­dents of both par­ties have is­sued the waiver ev­ery six months since Congress passed a law man­dat­ing the em­bassy move in 1995. Trump was fac­ing a Thurs­day dead­line to re­new the waiver or see the State De­part­ment lose half its fund­ing for its over­seas fa­cil­i­ties.

Trump's new am­bas­sador to Is­rael, his for­mer bankruptcy lawyer David Fried­man, has vowed to live in Jerusalem, about 30 miles from Tel Aviv.

Pales­tini­ans wel­comed the waiver and said they look for­ward to more con­sul­ta­tion with the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion.

"This is in line with the long-held U.S. policy and the in­ter­na­tional con­sen­sus, and it gives peace a chance," said Husam Zom­lot, the Pales­tinian Author­ity’s am­bas­sador to the United States.

Is­raeli of­fi­cials ex­pressed dis­ap­point­ment, but sev­eral said they be­lieved Trump will trans­fer the em­bassy be­fore he leaves of­fice.

In a state­ment, Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu’s of­fice said that keep­ing em­bassies “out­side the cap­i­tal” only “drives peace fur­ther away” be­cause it keeps alive “the Pales­tinian fan­tasy that the Jewish peo­ple and the Jewish state have no con­nec­tion to Jerusalem.”

Trump’s de­ci­sion had been ex­pected. Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son said last month that Trump had to weigh what ef­fect mov­ing the em­bassy would have on po­ten­tial peace talks.

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