Trump-O-Meter

Move U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem

"We will move the American embassy to the eternal capital of the Jewish people, Jerusalem."


Updates

Trump signals step back from Israeli embassy plan

President Donald Trump further distanced himself from his campaign promise to move the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

During an interview on the Trinity Broadcasting Network, Trump told former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee that he wants to first try to make peace between Israel and Palestine.

"I want to give that a shot before I even think about moving the embassy to Jerusalem," Trump said on the Christian network interview. "If we can make peace between the Palestinians and Israel, I think it'll lead to ultimately peace in the Middle East, which has to happen."

In June, Trump signed a waiver on the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995, which mandates that the embassy be moved to Jerusalem by 1999. Past presidents have also waived the act out of concern that it would derail peace talks.

A White House statement on the waiver said Trump still intends to follow through on his promise. It was not a matter of "if that move happens, but only when," the statement said.

David Friedman, the U.S. ambassador to Israel, echoed the White House's long-term strategy during an interview on TBN a few days before Trump's sit-down with Huckabee.

"The embassy will move. It's not if, but when," Friedman said. "And I am convinced that during his term, the United States will recognize Jerusalem as the undivided and eternal capital of the state of Israel."  

When Huckabee asked Trump, in light of Friedman's comments, for a timeframe on the move, Trump said the decision would happen in the "not too distant future."

Trump has not backed off of his promise, but his recent remarks on the subject show he is facing substantial roadblocks and cannot say when the embassy will move. We'll continue to rate this Stalled.

Sources:

White House, "Statement on the American Embassy in Israel," June 1, 2017

Reuters, "Trump says giving peace a chance before U.S. embassy move to Jerusalem: interview," Oct. 7, 2017

Trinity Broadcasting Network, "Trump talks Israel," Oct. 9, 2017

Trinity Broadcasting Network, "The Watchman Episode 69 Preview: Ambassador David Friedman Says U.S. Embassy Will Move to Jerusalem," Oct. 3, 2017


 

Trump delays moving U.S. embassy to Jerusalem

President Donald Trump has delayed moving the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

The White House issued a statement on June 1 saying Trump had signed a waiver under the Jerusalem Embassy Act postponing the embassy's relocation. 

But that doesn't mean he's changed his mind about it.

"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," said the White House statement.

The decision was made to "maximize the chances" of a successfully negotiated deal between Israel and the Palestine, and that fulfills the president's obligation to defend America's national security interests, the White House said.

The Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 mandated that the embassy be moved to Jerusalem by 1999. Past presidents have also signed waivers delaying the move out of concerns that it would upset peace talks between Israel and Palestine.

Trump remains committed to moving the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, but that's not happening for now. We rate this promise Stalled.

Sources:

White House, Statement on the American Embassy in Israel, June 1, 2017

PolitiFact is tracking the promises of President Donald Trump. See them all at PolitiFact.com.

Trump's promise to move embassy to Jerusalem on backburner

During his first trip to Israel as president, Donald Trump made no effort toward his campaign promise to move the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

That angered Israeli officials, who said that Trump had gone back on his promise.

Michael Oren, a former Israeli ambassador to the U.S. who now serves as deputy minister for diplomacy in the Netanyahu government, told reporters in a May 23 conference call after Trump's visit that he was disappointed that Trump didn't talk about moving the embassy.

PolitiFact asked Oren in an email if there had been any private communication.

"What's private is private," he replied. "There was no public statement."

During the presidential campaign, Trump repeatedly said he would move the embassy to Jerusalem.

"They want it in Jerusalem," Trump said in a January 2016 interview. "Well I am for that 100 percent. We are for that 100 percent."

In February 2017, at a joint press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Trump expressed cautious interest about moving the embassy but provided no timeline.

"I'd love to see that happen," Trump said. "We're looking at it very, very strongly. We're looking at it with great care, great care, believe me. And we'll see what happens. Okay?"

We gave Trump an In the Works after his comments.

But in the weeks leading up to Trump's visit to Israel, news reports indicated that talk of moving the embassy was on the backburner amid concerns that it could harm the peace process and inflame the Arab world.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson sounded cautious about any such move in an interview that aired on NBC's Meet the Press on May 14.

"The president is being very careful to understand how such a decision would impact the peace process," Tillerson said.

Tillerson also said that Trump would make the decision based on feedback from all parties in the region including "whether Israel views it as helpful to a peace initiative or perhaps a distraction."

News outlets including the New York Times and CNN reported that Arab leaders, including King Abdullah II of Jordan, cautioned against moving the embassy.

Jerusalem is disputed territory between Israelis and Palestinians. Most of the city lay inside Israel's border, but during the 1967 War, Israel annexed East Jerusalem. If the United States moves its embassy to Jerusalem, that would be viewed as endorsing Israel's view and would anger Arab leaders.

In 1995, Congress passed a law mandating the embassy be moved to Jerusalem by 1999. But U.S. presidents have signed waivers to suspend the move because they have feared it would disrupt peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians. The deadline for Trump to sign the next semiannual waiver is June 1.

Trump still has years to deliver on this promise, but it appears to be on the backburner for now.

We rate this promise Stalled.

Sources:

McClatchy, "Israelis angry at Trump's failure to move U.S. embassy to Jerusalem as promised," may 22, 2017

Jerusalem Post, "Trump pledges to move US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem," Jan. 20, 2016

The Israel Project, Conference call for reporters with Michael Oren, Deputy minister for Diplomacy in the Prime Minister's Office and Former Israeli ambassador to Washington, May 23, 2017

New York Times, "Trump comes to Israel citing a Palestinian deal as crucial," May 23, 2017

Los Angeles Times, "Trump's erratic style and thirst for a deal has some Israeli officials unnerved," May 19, 2017

NBC Meet the Press, Rex Tillerson interview, May 14, 2017

Haaretz, "Behind the Scenes of the Trump Administration's Tug-of-war Over the Israel Embassy Move," May 22, 2017

Of embassy move, Trump says 'we're looking at it with great care'

In a joint press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Donald Trump spoke cautiously about the future location of America's embassy in Israel.

During the presidential campaign, Trump told the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, "We will move the American embassy to the eternal capital of the Jewish people, Jerusalem."

But when asked by a reporter at the press conference if he would fulfill that promise and if so, when, Trump was less definitive.

"I'd love to see that happen," Trump said on Feb. 15, 2017. "We're looking at it very, very strongly. We're looking at it with great care, great care, believe me. And we'll see what happens. Okay?"

Trump could have said "Yes," to the first part of the question and left the moving date open. He didn't.

We reached out to the White House for an explanation and a spokesman repeated that the administration is taking a hard look at the issue.

Two days before the press conference, Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee telegraphed that the president might hold back. In an interview with Politico, Corker said the administration had been ready to order the embassy to move as soon as Trump took office. But that view shifted.

"The one plus in the Iran deal is it brought the Arab community close to Israel," Corker said. "When you've got a situation like that, do you really want to destroy this alliance that is unprecedented and is real?"

Jerusalem is disputed territory. Most of the city lay inside Israel's border but during the 1967 War, it annexed East Jerusalem. Many nations don't accept that status. For the United States to unilaterally throw its weight behind the idea that Jerusalem is the seat of the Israeli state would inflame the Arab world. Corker argued that now was not the time to upset Israel's Arab neighbors.

Trump held back from promising to move the embassy. But he did say it was still an option. We rate this promise as In the Works.

Sources:

Promise

Politico, Sen. Bob Corker: The Full Transcript, Feb. 13, 2017

Move U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem

On the campaign trail, Donald Trump praised Israel as one of the United States' greatest allies, which is why he is promising to move the embassy in Israel to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv.

"We will send a clear signal that there is no daylight between America and our most reliable ally, the state of Israel," Trump said after promising to move the embassy at his speech for American Israel Public Affairs Committee. "The Palestinians must come to the table knowing that the bond between the United States and Israel is absolutely, totally unbreakable."

WHY HE'S PROMISING IT

On the campaign trail, Trump praised Israel, and sees moving the embassy as an important part in making Jerusalem the official capital of Israel.

In 1995, Congress passed a law mandating the embassy be moved to Jerusalem by 1999. But U.S. presidents have signed waivers to suspend the move, amid fears it would destabilize peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians.

See Figure 1 on PolitiFact.com

WHAT NEEDS TO HAPPEN

Because of the 1995 law, Trump could initiate the move on his own by not signing waivers like former presidents have done.

Logistically speaking, moving the embassy would not be a problem, said Ido Oren, a political science professor at the University of Florida.

He said construction may take a few years but in the meantime a section of the existing U.S. consulate in West Jerusalem could be designated an embassy. He also said office space could be rented elsewhere for a few years.

The real problem is the politics surrounding the move, which could potentially derail his promise.

WHAT'S STANDING IN HIS WAY

Chuck Freilich, an International Security Program senior fellow at Harvard University, said moving the embassy could lead to an uproar in the Arab and Muslim worlds, if not done as part of some agreed framework, like a peace agreement with the Palestinians.

Oren said that might be enough to keep Trump from following through.

"Some of his advisers as well as the professional diplomats of the State Department will likely warn him that such a move might trigger a new Palestinian uprising, further antagonize the Arab and Muslim worlds, undermine the objective of fighting the Islamic State, etc.," he said.

A POSSIBLE TIMELINE

Trump could trigger a move by failing to sign a waiver to the 1995 law. The current U.S. consulate in Jerusalem could serve as a temporary embassy facility.

Sources: