Trump Shelves Plans to Move U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, U.S. Official Says

Official says Trump doesn't want to complicate attempts to revive Israeli-Palestinian peace process, though he still ultimately wants to move embassy

ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid
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A picture taken on January 20, 2017 shows the exterior of the U.S. Embassy building in Tel Aviv, as Donald Trump was inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States.
A picture taken on January 20, 2017 shows the exterior of the U.S. Embassy building in Tel Aviv, as Donald Trump was inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States.Credit: JACK GUEZ/AFP
ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid

U.S. President Donald Trump has decided at this stage not to relocate the American embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and to sign the presidential order freezing the implementation of the law calling for it, a senior White House official told Bloomberg on Wednesday.

The senior White House official said that the reason for the decision is the fact that the Trump administration believes that the prospect of progress in negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians seems promising. This, in light of the fact that the Palestinians aren’t setting preconditions for talks with Israel.

“We don’t think it would be wise to do it at this time,” the official told Bloomberg. “We’ve been very clear what our position is and what we would like to see done, but we’re not looking to provoke anyone when everyone’s playing really nice.”

Israel regards Jerusalem as its eternal and indivisible capital and wants all foreign countries to base their embassies there. The relocation is strongly opposed by many U.S. allies as Palestinians also claim the city as their capital.

Since taking office in January, Trump has shown signs of shelving his campaign pledge to move the embassy from Tel Aviv, while vowing to do what is necessary to clinch a Middle East peace agreement.

The senior official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Trump remains committed to his campaign pledge to ultimately relocate the U.S. Embassy but his current plan is not to announce a move while on his trip.

Since both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas have expressed interest in returning to the negotiating table with no preconditions, "we don't think it's the right time to do it right now," the official said. "But we'll re-evaluate it down the road."

During a trip to Saudi Arabia that begins with his arrival in Riyadh on Saturday, Trump will express support for forming a NATO-like force for the Middle East, backed by Gulf states, the official said.

An arms deal is to be announced during the trip in which Saudi Arabia will purchase $100 billion in U.S. arms in a deal that could lead to purchases of $300 billion over 10 years to help Riyadh counter Iran in the region, the official said.

Human rights will not take center stage at his meetings. The official said Trump preferred to keep such conversations private, much as he did with Egyptian President Fattah al-Sissi recently when he obtained the release of an Egyptian-American humanitarian worker, the official said.

While at the Group of Seven summit in Sicily later in the month, Trump will hear out European leaders concerned that he might withdraw the United States from the Paris climate agreement, the official said.

The official said Trump still feels the accord is a bad deal for the American economy.

Reuters contributed to this report

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