US President Donald Trump has made it clear that the idea of moving the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem will only be considered after a chance is given for peace between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Marc Zell, the chairman of Republicans Overseas Israel, responded to this development in an exclusive interview with Arutz Sheva.
At the outset, Zell was asked whether it is appropriate to be disappointed with President Trump after Zell had previously called moving the embassy '"simple," as all the president had to do was not sign the bi-annual waiver on the law mandating the embassy be moved. The US consulate in Jerusalem could then have become the embassy with a simple change written on the sign in front of the consulate.
"The process of transferring the embassy is very simple, but what happened in the meantime is a clash between two promises that the president gave during the presidential race," Zell said. "The first was his promise to move the embassy, and that was very simple and a promise which he still wants to keep. But the second promise was to deal with the Iranian threat, and the clash stems from there."
"In order to deal with Iran, we have to build a coalition that will include the Sunni states, and in order to bring them into the coalition, it was important to convey a message to their populations that serious progress was being made by Israel on the Palestinian track," he added.
Zell said that no one seriously believes that peace with the Palestinian Authority is possible under the current circumstances, and that all that the administration was attempting to do was to minimize friction between the two sides.
"Making peace with the Palestinians is out of the question. It will not happen during my lifetime, but moving forward with contacts and reducing the friction with the Palestinians is possible, and the fact is that there are signs of progress on this front - there are contacts between Fatah and Hamas under Egyptian sponsorship. There is also the meeting of President Trump in Riyadh and the expected announcements on the Iranian track next week."
Zell was asked when it would finally decided that peace had been given a chance and was not attainable, given that the US has attempted to broker a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority for decades to no avail. "If your expectations are to reach a sweeping final settlement with the Palestinians then you are right, but if we try to achieve much smaller things, such as water, transport, etc., then we can move forward, and we all want a reduction in the level of friction. On this subject, Trump has already succeeded in doing things that have been seen for a number of years."
Zell concluded his analysis by saying that this approach of the American president, who seeks to create as broad a coalition as possible against Iran, is an approach with positive elements. "I think there are positive things in this. Of course I would like to see the American embassy in Jerusalem. But what is more important, to deal with the Iranian threat, which is an existential threat, or to move the embassy to Jerusalem? Those who understand the region, like President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu, understand that the Iranian issue must be dealt with first,"
He stressed that Trump wants to move the embassy because it was a campaign promise. "Even if the embassy is not moved, steps are being taken to strengthen the connection between the consulate in Jerusalem and the embassy in Tel Aviv. The current reality remains that the consulate is transferring materials to Amman and Washington, and the embassy in Tel Aviv is transferring its materials directly to Washington."
"One of the things that we are trying to do, and we will work on it as a Republican party, is to make a few important changes, even though they are less than the transfer of the embassy. One is the possibility of the president deciding that every American citizen born in Jerusalem can use the word 'Israel' [as his place of birth] in his passport. The second thing is the president's ability to give the consulate in Jerusalem a chance to report to the embassy in Tel Aviv and not to Amman, and another important thing for American citizens living here is to change the tax law in order to reduce the burden of American taxation on American citizens living abroad. "