WASHINGTON (JTA) – The Trump administration reportedly will not be moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv for now.
An unnamed senior administration official on Wednesday told Bloomberg News that it would be “unwise to do it at this time” as President Donald Trump is getting ready to restart Israeli-Palestinian talks to move the embassy.
“We’ve been very clear what our position is and what we would like to see done,” the official said, “but we’re not looking to provoke anyone when everyone’s playing really nice.”
Congress recognized Jerusalem as Israeli in 1995, but successive presidents have waived a provision in that law that requires the United States to move the embassy there from Tel Aviv.
Trump campaigned on a pledge to move the embassy, but has retreated from it since assuming office. Next week he will be the first sitting U.S. president to visit the Western Wall in the Old City, but his team rejected a request from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to accompany him.
Trump’s national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, demurred this week when asked to say whether the administration regarded the Western Wall as part of Israel. However, the ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, said the same day that she sees it as Israeli.
The Orthodox Union, which had complained earlier in the week about McMaster’s comments, was “disappointed” in the news that Trump would not be moving the embassy now, said Nathan Diament, its Washington director.
However, Diament said in an interview, his group was still watching to see whether Trump would exercise the six-month waiver of the 1995 law, which every president has done since the law was passed, and which he must do by June 1.
“If he were to announce next week or the week after that he’s not signing the national security waiver and if the process of evaluating how the move would take place were to begin, that would be a step in the right direction,” he said.
Meanwhile, a celebration at the Capitol marking the 50th anniversary of Jerusalem’s reunification drew top Congress members from both parties. Among those on hand were Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., the chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, and Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., the House minority whip.
A number of Republican congressmen at the event alluded to McMaster’s refusal to name the Western Wall as Israeli territory and called for moving the embassy to Jerusalem.
Event sponsors included the Religious Zionists of America and another 24 pro-Israel and Jewish groups. The celebration coincided with the annual congressional lobbying day for one of the groups, NORPAC, among the preeminent pro-Israel political action committees.
Reps. Tom Suozzi, D-N.Y., and Francis Rooney, R-Fla., marked the celebration by introducing a nonbinding resolution celebrating Israel’s capture of the eastern portions of Jerusalem in the Six-Day War in 1967.