White House, Netanyahu’s Office Deny Reports of Trump Backtrack on Embassy Move

Trump Seated Getty Images 5-8-2017
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DEBORAH DANAN

TEL AVIV — Despite media reports to the contrary, President Donald Trump is still considering moving the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, the White House said on Wednesday.

“The president has not made a decision yet and is still reviewing that,” Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters at the daily press briefing.

Sanders was questioned about a report in the Hebrew-language news site NRG that said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu received notice that Trump would renege on his campaign promise and sign the waiver on the congressional mandate to transfer the embassy. That waiver has been signed every six months by U.S. presidents since 1995.

The Prime Minister’s Office denied any such notice.

“Israel’s position is that all embassies, particularly the U.S. embassy, should be in Israel’s capital – Jerusalem,” the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement.

Various media outlets have speculated that Trump will announce an embassy transfer while on a visit to Israel later this month. Trump’s two-day visit will coincide with Jerusalem Day, marking the 50th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem in the 1967 defensive war.

Florida Rep. Ron DeSantis (R) also said two weeks ago that Trump would use his visit to announce the embassy relocation.

“What better time could there be to announce the relocation of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem than when you are over here celebrating with our Israeli friends this very important 50th anniversary of the liberation of Jerusalem?” he said.

When asked whether Arab threats were influencing Trump, Sanders declined to answer.

“I’m not going to get into the decision-making process,” she said. “All I can tell you is that he’s still reviewing it and as soon as we have a decision, I know we’ll be happy to report back to you guys.”

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said in January that if Trump moves the embassy, it will “destroy the peace process.”

His senior aide and the PA’s supreme Sharia judge Mahmoud Al-Habbash said an embassy transfer would be a “declaration of war.” 

This week, Turkish President Recep Erdogan said it would be “extremely ill-advised” for Trump to move the embassy.

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