Article: Debate rages over moving U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem

Posted By on December 5, 2017

The Washington Times

S.A. Miller

December 5, 2017

President Trump is determined to move the U.S. embassy in Israel to the disputed city of Jerusalem, a White House spokesman said Monday, but a fierce debate still rages in the Oval Office over the timing of the announcement.

Administration officials said last week that Mr. Trump planned Wednesday to recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital but delay moving the embassy, a half-way measure designed to appease both sides in the Israeli-Palestinian impasse over the holy city.

The proposed move nevertheless threatened to spark protest by Palestinians, unrest across the Arab world and set fire to Middle East peace negotiations, forcing the president to reassess his options.

“The President has always said it is a matter of when, not if. The president is still considering options and we have nothing to announce,” the spokesman told The Washington Times.

The discussions have intensified as a legislative deadline looms this week for Mr. Trump to grant a waiver for a 1995 law that requires the U.S. embassy relocate from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The waiver must be signed every six months. Mr. Trump, who repeatedly promised during the 2016 presidential campaign that he would move the embassy, begrudgingly signed the first waiver of his presidency June 1.

The waivers has been extended every six month by every president since Bill Clinton signed the law, which stipulates that the State Department’s building budget will be cut in half if the embassy is not relocated to Jerusalem by the end of the 20th century.

The city’s status is a key sticking point in Middle East peace talks currently being pursued by Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and top adviser Jared Kushner.

“The president is going to make his decision,” Mr. Kushner said Sunday at an event hosted by the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank. “He is still looking at a lot of different facts.”

Israel claim the city as its capital and house most of the government offices, including the prime minister’s office, parliament and Supreme Court in Jerusalem. Palestinians also want Jerusalem as their capital.

Israel captured the city in 1967’s Six-Day War.

Many across the international community argue that the Jerusalem question should be answered within peace talks.

Voices from across the Arab world — from the Arab League, to Turkey, Jordan and Egypt — warned Mr. Trump that he was playing with diplomatic dynamite.

Middle East Institute scholar Yousef Munayyer said the debate itself had already spread instability.

“Whether Trump makes the decision or not, the way this has been handled in keeping the region on edge until the last moment makes clear this administration is either dangerously ignorant of the magnitude of the issues it is engaging in or intentionally malevolent,” he said. “Neither bode well for peace and stability in the region.”

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