Senior Israeli politicians asked President Donald Trump to follow through on his controversial campaign promise Sunday to move the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Members of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet — in New York for a conference sponsored by the Jerusalem Post — raised the embassy issue and other Mideast policy questions as Trump prepares for his inaugural trip to the region on May 19.
Against the backdrop of stalled peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, the Israeli leaders took the opportunity to remind Trump of his pledge to be Israel’s “best friend” in Washington. One of the most important acts of friendship, they said, would be to relocate the American embassy to Jerusalem, a move that previous U.S. presidents have considered but never executed.
White House officials have said that the status of the embassy was still under review and have not confirmed if Trump plans to order the change, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked assured conference goers that simple inaction on Trump’s part would suffice, citing a U.S. law that requires American presidents to annually update a waiver that keeps the embassy in Tel Aviv.
“President Trump doesn’t need to do anything,” Shaked told the audience. “On June 1, if he doesn’t sign a waiver, the embassy will need to move to Jerusalem according to American law.”
The increasing pressure comes amid uncertainty about how Trump will approach relations with Israel and the moribund Mideast peace process. In the first few months of his administration, Trump has made several pro-Israel moves, including the appointment of vocal Israel supporter and Orthodox Jew David Friedman as the U.S. ambassador in Tel Aviv. But some conference speakers expressed concern over Trump’s recent meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and questioned the Arab leader’s credibility in peace negotiations. (RELATED: Trump Vows To Broker Peace In The Middle East, A Deal He Thinks Might Be Easier Than Others Say)
“Can the extremist, corrupt, split, dysfunctional, totalitarian, anti-Semitic Palestinian Authority become a genuine partner for genuine peace in the Middle East?” asked Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz.
The general consensus among conference speakers was that the Trump administration will approach U.S.-Israel relations much differently than its predecessor. After eight years of disagreement with former President Barack Obama on issues such as settlement building in disputed territories and the Iran nuclear deal, cabinet members were optimistic that Trump would pursue more Israel-friendly policies.
“I was personally encouraged that the Trump administration did not automatically adopt the two-state solution narrative,” Shaked said. “I think the Trump Administration will continue to positively surprise us.”
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