Tillerson: Trump Considering Impact of U.S. Embassy Move on Peace Process

In first, the U.S. secretary of state publicly admits that the embassy move is being weighed as part of the larger effort to reach an Israeli-Palestinian agreement

The U.S. embassy building is seen in Tel Aviv, Israel January 20, 2017.
The U.S. embassy building is seen in Tel Aviv, Israel January 20, 2017. AMIR COHEN/REUTERS

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Sunday that while President Donald Trump still hasn't made a decision on whether or not he will move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, an important part of his deliberations is how such a move would impact the Trump administration's efforts to reach an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal.

Speaking on NBC's "Meet the Press," Tillerson explained that "the president, I think rightly, has taken a very deliberative approach to understanding the issue itself, listening to input from all interested parties in the region, and understanding, in the context of a peace initiative, what impact would such a move have."

This is the first time that a senior figure in the Trump administration has admitted publicly that the embassy move, a promise Trump made during the election campaign, is being weighed as part of the larger effort to reach a peace agreement. Tillerson added further that Trump was "being very careful to understand how such a decision would impact a peace process." In recent weeks, press reports in Israel indicated that the Trump administration was not planning to move the embassy.

Tillerson also said that the president wants to understand "whether Israel views it as being helpful to a peace initiative or perhaps as a distraction," hinting at possible disagreements on the issue within the Israeli government. The Israeli security establishment and the army have warned in the past that moving the embassy could lead to increased violence on the ground in Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Meanwhile, Education Minister Naftali Bennet called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to tell Trump that Israel expects the U.S. to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and recognize "united Jerusalem under Israeli sovergeinty." Bennett added that the embassy move would strengthen Israel and increase the chances for real peace. "Any agreement based on dividing Jerusalem is sentenced to failure," Bennett wrote on his Twitter account.