US President Donald Trump on Thursday signed a waiver that delays for six months any plan to relocate the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, disappointing the Israeli government and backtracking on a key promise he made on the campaign trail throughout 2016.
Announcing the move, the White House insisted it did not represent a weakening of his support for Israel. “While President Donald J. Trump signed the waiver under the Jerusalem Embassy Act and delayed moving the US Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, no one should consider this step to be in any way a retreat from the President’s strong support for Israel and for the United States-Israel alliance,” the White House statement said.
The White House said the president still stood by his promise to move the embassy.
“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 interests. But, as he has repeatedly stated his intention to move the embassy, the question is not if that move happens, but only when.”
“It’s a question of when, not if,” an official said, adding that Trump “doesn’t think the timing is right, right now.” The official added: “In timing such a move, he will seek to maximize the chances of successfully negotiating a deal between Israel and the Palestinians.”
The president had distanced himself from the pledge since taking office and had been evasive on whether he would go ahead with the move.
He made no public mention of the embassy during his visit last week to Israel.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday he was “disappointed” with US President Donald Trump’s decision not to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem for now, saying that despite Trump’s declared peace-making intentions, delaying the relocation “drives peace further away.”
“Israel’s consistent position is that the American embassy, like the embassies of all countries with whom we have diplomatic relations, should be in Jerusalem, our eternal capital,” Netanyahu’s office said in a statement after Trump backtracked on a key promise he made on the campaign trail throughout 2016 by signing a waiver which pushes off moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem for at least another six months.
“Maintaining embassies outside the capital drives peace further away by helping keep alive the Palestinian fantasy that the Jewish people and the Jewish state have no connection to Jerusalem,” the statement said.
“Though Israel is disappointed that the embassy will not move at this time, we appreciate today’s expression of President Trump’s friendship to Israel and his commitment to moving the embassy in the future,” the statement noted.