Trump will not move US embassy to Jerusalem for now

President Donald Trump signed a temporary order on Thursday to keep the USA embassy in Israel in Tel Aviv instead of relocating it to Jerusalem, despite his campaign pledge to go ahead with the controversial move.

White House strategy chief Steve Bannon supports the move, but Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is less keen and has said Trump is "being very careful to understand how such a decision would impact the peace process".

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said in a statement that Israel was "disappointed" by Trump's decision, arguing that the presence of embassies outside the city "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 time has come to put an end to this farce", Steinitz told Army Radio. Hussam Zomlot, the Palestinian envoy in Washington, said the move "gives peace a chance". Despite that, most experts are skeptical of Trump's chances for achieving a peace deal that had eluded other USA presidents.

USA officials say the process of moving the embassy would take at least six months and involve major adjustments in security, office and housing space and staffing at both the existing facility in Tel Aviv and the consulate general in Jerusalem.

But the law contained a clause that has allowed each president since to issue and renew a six-month waiver on carrying out the move.

The status of Jerusalem is one of the major stumbling blocks.

When Israel was established a year later, the US and other countries based their embassies in the Tel Aviv area instead of Jerusalem, out of respect for the United Nations plan.

Of the embassy, Spicer said, "The question is not if that move happens, but only when".

Trump avoided any public mention of a potential embassy move during his visit to Israel and the West Bank in May.

Palestinian leaders cheered the move and said it improved the atmosphere for future negotiations by demonstrating Trump's seriousness about the process. Presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama all claimed a presidential waiver for the move, citing national security interests.

On the campaign trail, Trump's pro-Israel rhetoric raised expectations that he would act quickly to move the embassy. Two decades later, Israel captured east Jerusalem from Jordan in the 1967 Mideast War and annexed it, though without global recognition.

The US said its policy on Jerusalem has not changed and that Jerusalem's status must be negotiated between Israelis and Palestinians. Building a new complex in Jerusalem could take even longer.

During a speech at the Israel Museum on May 23, Trump recounted his meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and said the Palestinians are "ready to reach for peace".

"No one should consider this step to be in any way a retreat from the president's strong support for Israel", according to the White House statement on the signing of the waiver. The State Department, however recommended against an embassy move, one USA official said.

  • Leroy Wright