TEL AVIV — President Donald Trump on Thursday signed a waiver that delayed the fulfillment of his campaign promise to move the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, prompting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to express “disappointment.”
The White House said the decision does not affect the U.S.’s strong relationship with Israel and added that Trump still has every intention of moving the embassy in the future.
“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.
“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.”
Netanyahu’s office reacted to the news with a mixture of disappointment and hope.
“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,” a statement from the prime minister’s office read.
The statement reiterated Israel’s position “that the American embassy, like the embassies of all countries with whom we have diplomatic relations, should be in Jerusalem, our eternal capital.”
“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.”