Will Donald Trump honor his campaign pledge to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem? Or while the president, like his predecessors, invoke a security clause to delay implementation of the 1995 Jerusalem Embassy law requiring the relocation and recognition of the city as Israel’s united capital?
Despite promising to relocate the embassy while a candidate – a promise also made by President Bush prior to his election in 2000 – Trump has remained mum on the issue of whether he will follow through and implement the 1995 law.
In recent weeks there have been mixed signals regarding the possible move, with a senior Republican lawmaker charged with oversight of America’s embassies claiming the relocation would likely be announced during the president’s trip to Israel later this month.
An agenda list drawn up by White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon and inadvertently publicized in an Israel Independence Day selfie with Rabbi Shmuely Boteach suggested the move was on the Trump administration’s “to-do” list.
On Thursday, however, there were unofficial indications that the White House is in no rush to make the move.
According to US officials privy to the details of America’s embassy operations in Israel, Trump’s newly appointed and sworn-in Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman will be working out of the existing US Embassy in Tel Aviv, and will be commuting from his home in Jerusalem to the coastal city.
While Friedman will live in his personal residence in Jerusalem, the official Ambassador’s Residence used for state functions will remain at its present location in Herzliya Pituah, north of Tel Aviv. Some meetings, however, may be held at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, the officials said.
Ambassador Friedman will arrive in Israel later this month, and is slated to present his credentials to President Reuven Rivlin on May 15th, one week before Trump’s visit to Israel.
Former Senator Joseph Lieberman (D-Connecticut), who vouched for Friedman during his Senate confirmation hearing, said it was safe to assume Friedman would be officially assigned to Tel Aviv, at least until some official change in policy is clearly announced by the White House.
“I hope that Friedman will be the first Ambassador to represent the US in Jerusalem, but it’s safe to assume that the government will do this in stages,” Lieberman said.