WASHINGTON – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he’s disappointed that the U.S. Embassy, now in Tel Aviv, will not move to Jerusalem immediately.
But he’s grateful that President Trump has committed to doing exactly that in the future.
“Though Israel is disappointed that the embassy will not move at this time, we appreciate today’s expression of President Trump’s friendship to Israel and his commitment to moving the Embassy in the future,” a statement from Netanyahu’s office said.
“Maintaining embassies outside the capital drives peace further away by helping keep alive the Palestinian fantasy that the Jewish people and the Jewish state have no connection to Jerusalem,” he said.
Israel, he said, believes “that the American Embassy, like the embassies of all countries with whom we have diplomatic relations, should be in Jerusalem, our eternal capital.”
While President Trump signed a waiver to an existing U.S. law putting the Embassy in Jerusalem, meaning it won’t move there for the next six months, he said that result will happen eventually.
A statement posted on the White House website, when he signed the document delaying for at least six months any move, said, “No one should consider this step to be in any way a retreat from the president’s strong support for Israel and for the United States-Israel alliance. President Trump made this decision to maximize the chances of successfully negotiating a deal between Israel and the Palestinians, fulfilling his solemn obligation to defend America’s national security interests. But, as he has repeatedly stated his intention to move the embassy, the question is not if that move happens, but only when.”
On Wednesday Trump, like all other presidents since 1995, signed a waiver in a federal law requiring the move to allow the facility to remain in Tel Aviv for the next six months.
Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama all had signed similar waivers.
Trump’s signature followed the statement: “Pursuant to the authority vested in me as president by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, including section 7(a) of the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 (Public Law 104-45) (the “Act”), I hereby determine that it is necessary, in order to protect the national security interests of the United States, to suspend for a period of 6 months the limitations set forth in sections 3(b) and 7(b) of the Act.”
Make THIS year the year that you visit Jerusalem – on the 2017 WND Tour that will be led by Joseph and Elizabeth Farah, and will feature appearances by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. Ambassador David Freidman.
On October 23, 1995, Congress passed the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995, recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and requiring the U.S. Embassy to be moved there by May 31, 1999. The law passed the Senate by 93-5 and the House by 374-37. Yet the law was never implemented because of opposition from former Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama. Each president took advantage of a waiver provision in the Jerusalem Embassy Act, enabling them to certify, every six months, that it is not yet time to move the U.S. Embassy.
The move by Trump brought disappointment to the large constituency of voters who identify as evangelical Christians who support Israel.
Penny Nance, CEO of Concerned Women for America, immediately released a statemet: “CWA’s members are very disappointed that the president chose to sign the waiver in direct contradiction to his campaign promise to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem. In 1967, Arab armies declared war on Israel. Until that time, Jordan had occupied east Jerusalem for 20 years, destroyed most synagogues, and did not allow religious freedom. Israel won the 1967 war and liberated east Jerusalem, thus re-uniting their ancient, 3,000-year-old capital. Under the Israelis, Muslims, Christians, and Jews enjoy religious freedom.”
She pointed out, “Israel is the only country in the world that does not have the U.S. Embassy in its own designated capital. It’s an unjust anomaly. We believe it is a mistake to tie the U.S. Embassy move to any possible peace agreement, since Palestinians remain unwilling to negotiate directly with Israel.”
The bottom line, she explained, is this: “In my presence, both U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman and Israel’s Ambassador to the U.S., Ron Dermer, said the move is 50 years overdue. (The 1967 Six-Day War gave Israel the old city.) Eight-one percent of evangelicals voted for President Trump, and the vast majority also support the Jerusalem Embassy Act. In December we will once again ask the president to keep his word when this waiver expires.”
Mat Staver, chief of Liberty Counsel, had encouraged Trump to simply leave the law alone, which would then require the move.
Just before the decision by Trump, he explained, “Congress signed the Jerusalem Embassy Act in 1999. Eighteen years waiting is more than enough. It is beyond time for the United States to move the Embassy to Jerusalem. To not recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel contradicts the Bible, history, present-day reality, and is anti-Semitic.”
Eugene Kontorovich wrote at the Volokh Conspiracy blog that while the decision to sign a waiver at this point certainly is a disappointment for Trump supporters, “it will not be the end of the show.”
“He will have seven more waivers ahead, with mounting pressure as his term progresses. Under Obama, speculation focused on what actions he would take or allow against Israel (and even these waited until very late in his second term).”
He explained the waiver “does not waive the obligation to move the embassy. That policy has been fully adopted by Congress in the Act (sec. 3(a)(3)) and is not waiveable. Of course, Congress cannot simply order the president to implement such a move, especially given his core constitutional power over diplomatic relations.”
“But Congress, having total power over the spending of taxpayer dollars, does not have to pay for an embassy in Tel Aviv. The Act’s enforcement mechanism is to suspend half of the appropriated funds for the State Department’s ‘Acquisition and Maintenance of Buildings Abroad’ until the law’s terms are complied with. The waiver provision simply allows the president to waive the financial penalty.”
He pointed out, too, that the law actually calls for the opening of a U.S. embassy in Jerusalem, “which can be done with a mere declaration upgrading the status of one of the existing consular facilities in the city. It does not require the physical relocation of the facility.”
WND reported last month when Christian leaders representing 60 million members of the faith across America sent the president a letter asking him to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to the country’s capital, Jerusalem.
The non-profit Liberty Counsel reports the letter called for the move – which was directed by Congress in 1995 – to be made “at long last.”
The letter, signed by about five dozen Christian leaders, stated, “The time has come, at long last, to uphold American law by moving the U.S. Embassy to Israel’s eternal indivisible capital city of Jerusalem.”
“The Republican National Convention’s official 2016 platform rightly stated, ‘We recognize Jerusalem as the eternal and indivisible capital of the Jewish state and call for the American embassy to be moved there in fulfillment of U.S. law. Moreover, we were honored and grateful that you pledged to specifically uphold this policy in response to a request from the American Christian Leaders for Israel coalition during your campaign. Many of our constituents cast their vote for you due to this commitment,'” the letter said.
WND reported in January a delegation of Republican senators proposing freezing some State Department funding until the U.S. Embassy is moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
The president’s next opportunity to complete this particular campaign promise will arrive next winter.