President Donald Trump told former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee in an interview broadcast on TBN Saturday that he would not move the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem until he had tried to broker peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
The statement marks a significant walk-back of Trump’s campaign promise in 2016 to relocate the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem “fairly quickly.”
In March 2016, in a speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), a prominent pro-Israel lobby group, Trump committed to moving the embassy to Jerusalem, explaining that it would increase the chance of peace with the Palestinians:
But when the United States stands with Israel, the chances of peace really rise and rises exponentially. That’s what will happen when Donald Trump is president of the United States.
We will move the American embassy to the eternal capital of the Jewish people, Jerusalem.
And we will send a clear signal that there is no daylight between America and our most reliable ally, the state of Israel.
The Palestinians must come to the table knowing that the bond between the United States and Israel is absolutely, totally unbreakable.
They must come to the table willing and able to stop the terror being committed on a daily basis against Israel. They must do that.
And they must come to the table willing to accept that Israel is a Jewish state and it will forever exist as a Jewish state.
In his interview with Huckabee, Trump appeared to dump that logic in favor of the conventional wisdom that the chances for peace would be hurt by affirming Israel’s sovereignty in Jerusalem.
Huckabee: Ambassador [David] Friedman recently indicated that the embassy will be moved to Jerusalem. Do we have a timeframe?
Trump: Well, we’re going to make a decision in the not-too-distant future. Right now, we are actually working on a plan that everybody says will never work — because for many, many years, it’s never worked, they say it’s the toughest deal of all, is peace between Israel and the Palestinians. So we’re going to work that, and if that doesn’t work — which is possible that it won’t, to be totally honest, I mean most people say it’s an impossible deal. I don’t think it is impossible, and I think it’s something that can happen. And I think it’s something that — I’m not making any predictions, but I want to give that a shot before I even think about moving the embassy to Jerusalem.
Trump appears to consider the embassy move a punitive measure, one that Palestinians can forestall by indulging peace talks. The implication is that an embassy move might not be included within the framework of a peace deal, and that Palestinians might not be required to recognize Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem in a peace agreement.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named one of the “most influential” people in news media in 2016. He is the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.