WASHINGTON — President Trump has decided not to immediately move the US Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, a senior White House official said, breaking a campaign promise but avoiding a provocation that could drive Palestinians away from peace talks.
The official said the administration considers its discussions with the Israeli government and Palestinian Authority to be promising, with the Palestinians, in particular, agreeing to talk without preconditions. The official asked not to be identified.
Trump said in a speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference in March 2016 that he’d move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, “the eternal capital of the Jewish people.” The city is claimed as a capital by both Jews and Palestinians, however, and relocating the embassy — and essentially declaring Jerusalem to be Israeli territory — would raise tensions.
“We don’t think it would be wise to do it at this time,” the official said. “We’ve been very clear what our position is and what we would like to see done, but we’re not looking to provoke anyone when everyone’s playing really nice.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office had no comment.
Trump has said he’d like to broker a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, calling it “the ultimate deal.” He sent an envoy, Jason Greenblatt, to the region in March to open talks and has met with both Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at the White House.
Previous presidents, including Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, pledged to move the embassy, only to abandon the idea in the face of political reality.
A move would also be costly: The United States doesn’t own a facility in Jerusalem large enough to house its embassy and would have to build a secure compound at considerable expense.