Move of embassy delayed by U.S.
Trump had promised to relocate from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, but he follows precedent.
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.