On Tuesday, Dec. 5, at 12:00 a.m., the deadline expired for President Donald Trump to sign another six-month waiver deferring the relocation of the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem — and the waiver had not been signed.
It is still unclear whether Trump will decide to move the embassy from the coastal financial center of Tel Aviv to the actual seat of the Israeli government, and the historic and religious capital of the Jewish people. White House spokesperson Hogan Gidley confirmed earlier in the evening, “No action though will be taken on the waiver today and we will declare a decision on the waiver in the coming days,” according to the Times of Israel.
Legal scholar Eugene Kontorovich explained in the Washington Post earlier in the year — prior to the last six-month deadline — what not signing the waiver by the deadline would mean:
Absent a new waiver by President Trump, the provisions of the law [the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995] will go into full effect.
[B]y not signing a waiver, Trump would not actually be requiring the embassy to move to Jerusalem, moving the embassy or recognizing Jerusalem. That could give him significant diplomatic flexibility or deniability if June 1 goes by with mere silence from the White House.
Moreover, the law says nothing about “moving” the embassy. Rather, the requirement is to “officially open” an embassy, which can be done with a mere declaration upgrading the status of one of the existing consular facilities in the city. It does not require the physical relocation of the facility in Tel Aviv.
[T]he moment [the deadline] comes without a waiver, the State Department will become Trump’s biggest ally in finding a way to “establish” an embassy as fast as possible, to avoid the severe cuts to its budget. At the same time, Trump can insist to the world that his non-waiver does not signify any kind of diplomatic policy, but merely a determination that the waiver is no longer “necessary” to protect national security.
The actual text of the Jerusalem Embassy Act specifies that the embassy “should” be established in Jerusalem, meaning that the president may have some flexibility.
Indeed, the administration has hinted that the president will recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, but may not quite declare the embassy to be in Jerusalem just yet.
Still, given that the president has now removed the last legal barrier to moving the embassy, and that doing so was a major campaign promise in 2016, it would appear that he must do so.
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.