Israeli official disappointed with embassy delay

Gladys Abbott
June 2, 2017

President Donald Trump has decided not to immediately move the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, according to an announcement by the White House that is sure to rile the administration's pro-Israel supporters, who were counting on Trump to uphold one of his most oft-repeated campaign promises.

Congress passed a law in 1995 making it U.S. policy to move the embassy to Jerusalem, symbolically endorsing Israel's claim on the city as its capital.

"President Trump made this decision to maximize the chances of successfully negotiating a deal between Israel and the Palestinians, fulfilling his solemn obligation to defend America's national security interest", the White House said in a statement Thursday.

"He has repeatedly stated his intention to move the embassy", the White House said in a statement.

In fact, when the U.S. Congress passed a law in 1995 requiring the move its embassy to Jerusalem, the Israeli leader at the time, Yitzhak Rabin, was said to be hesitant.

A Morning Consult survey conducted as Trump returned home from his first worldwide trip through the region - which featured visits to Saudi Arabia, Israel and the Palestinian territories - showed that 59 percent of registered voters, including 74 percent of Democrats and 62 percent of independents, said they thought it was unlikely that Trump would be able to successfully negotiate a peace deal.

Trump had been up against a Thursday deadline to either certify the US had opened an embassy in Jerusalem or see the State Department lose half its funding for overseas facilities.

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On the campaign trail Trump repeatedly pledged that he would shift the embassy from Tel Aviv to the city claimed as capital by both Israel and its Palestinian neighbors and he appointed a USA ambassador who shares this goal. Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz, a senior member of government, accused Trump of "a surrender" to pressure from Arab and Muslim nations. Moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem has never been the highest issue on any Israeli government's agenda, observers say.

The Palestinian Authority's ambassador to the U.S., Husam Zomlot, said that Trump's decision "gives peace a chance" and that the Palestinians "are ready to start the consultation process with the U.S. Administration" on a peace deal.

Zomlot says: "We are ready to start the consultation process with the USA administration. We are serious and genuine about achieving a just and lasting peace". Israel considers the holy city to be its capital and insists the city must not be divided; Palestinians claim east Jerusalem as the capital for a future, independent state.

Jerusalem's status is one of the most emotionally charged matters separating the Israelis and Palestinians. Israel has declared Jerusalem, a city that is central to Judaism, as its "eternal" capital.

A senior Israeli official is expressing disappointment over Trump's decision against relocating the embassy to Jerusalem and is accusing the USA of caving in to Arab pressure. They haven't wanted to take sides on the issue, so they've kept their embassies in the Tel Aviv area.

"We are disappointed that the president has not yet followed through on his pledge to move the embassy, and we hope that he does so soon", it said.

The U.S. says its policy on Jerusalem hasn't changed and that Jerusalem's status must be negotiated between Israelis and Palestinians.

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