As he has every six months of his administration, President Barack Obama signed a waiver on Thursday ordering the U.S. Embassy in Israel to remain in Tel Aviv – and not be moved to Yerushalayim as Congress has requested and the Israelis would like.
Every president since the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 was passed by Congress has signed the waiver every six months, determining the delay is necessary “to protect the national security interests of the United States.”
But during his campaign, President-elect Donald Trump vowed to move the seaside embassy – and pronto.
With his election, many Israelis – including Yerushalayim Mayor Nir Barkat – said they hope Trump will honor his promise. “This will symbolize the close relationship and courageous friendship between the two nations,” said Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked.
Israelis are excited by the prospect, but not holding their breaths. About half of Israelis polled said they didn’t think Trump would really relocate the embassy, according to a November survey for the Jerusalem Post.
In an address to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) in March, Trump promised to “move the American embassy to the eternal capital of the Jewish people, Jerusalem.”
Trump said the relocation would happen “fairly quickly.”
Previous candidates, including Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, promised the same thing in their courtship of pro-Israel voters, then reversed themselves.
The United States, like other countries, maintains its embassy in Tel Aviv, and says any change must await the final resolution of the Israel-Palestinian conflict.
But if Trump were to want to move the U.S. embassy up the hill 40 miles from Tel Aviv to Yerushalayim, diplomats say it would require … virtually nothing.
President Trump could simply not sign the next waiver and then planning and construction could proceed.
Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama sought to maintain credibility to attempt to help the parties find a resolution of the long-running conflict. They also did not move the embassy for fear the Palestinians would erupt, the Arab world would condemn and the United States might find itself at odds with allies in Europe and elsewhere.
The decision will soon be Trump’s.
(c) 2016, The Washington Post · William Booth