Trump White House 'At Very Beginning Stages of Even Discussing' Embassy Move to Jerusalem

Aides say no announcement of embassy move is imminent. 'Prattle and nonsense' by politicians to blame for White House statement, senior Israeli diplomat says.

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An Israeli border policemen guards the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv as other Israelis line up for U.S. visas, March 17, 2003.
An Israeli border policemen guards the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv as other Israelis line up for U.S. visas, March 17, 2003.Credit: Eitan Hess-Ashkenazi/AP

Two days after U.S. President Donald Trump took office, the White House said that the administration was "at the very beginning stages of even discussing" the subject of moving the U.S embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, Press Secretary Sean Spicer said on Sunday.

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Last week, a day before Trump entered office, Spicer said at a press conference that details regarding the embassy move - one of Trump's election pledges - will be published "soon" and told the reporters covering the issue to "stay tuned." His statement Sunday, coming shortly before Trump holds a phone conversation with Prime Minister Netanyahu, seems to suggest it might take some time before more details on the subject are released.

Aides said no announcement of an embassy move was imminent.

A senior Israeli diplomat blamed "prattle and nonsense" by Israeli politicians for the "bad" White house statement.

>> Read more: Netanyahu promises to lift political restrictions on settlement activity in East Jerusalem >>

Trump told the Sheldon Adelson-owned Israel Hayom daily on Wednesday that he "hasn't forgotten" his campaign pledge to move the embassy. "And you know I'm not a person who breaks his promises," he said.

Some two weeks ago, the Palestinians launched a media and diplomatic campaign against moving the embassy. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas referred to the matter a number of times, saying the Palestinians would not react violently to such a move, but would use diplomatic and legal channels. Abbas also sent a letter to Trump asking him not to relocate the embassy, noting that moving it to Jerusalem would have a devastating effect on the peace process.

Arab countries are also working against the relocation of the embassy. A number of Arab ambassadors to Washington have met with Trump's advisers and warned them of the consequences.

>> Read more: Netanyahu briefed on scenarios of violence should Trump move embassy to Jerusalem >>

Jordanian Media Affairs Minister Mohammed al-Momani said moving the embassy to Jerusalem would cross a red line and have "catastrophic consequences."

Outgoing U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has told the American media over the last two weeks that relocating the embassy could lead to "an absolute explosion" in Israel, the West Bank and the Middle East. It would have a negative impact on relations between Israel, Egypt and Jordan.

The army, police and Shin Bet security service have presented Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and senior ministers with scenarios of worsening violence should Trump announce the relocation of the U.S. embassy.

Netanyahu had ordered defense officials to prepare for such a possibility from the moment Trump took office, senior Israeli officials said.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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