JERUSALEM, Israel – President Donald Trump decided today he will not be moving the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
During his campaign, Trump promised to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, thrilling Israelis and many pro-Israel Christian voters. But the White House says he can't do it just yet.
"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," the White House said in a statement.
The statement makes clear the president made the decision because he intends to push ahead with plans for peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.
"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," the statement said.
"But, as he has repeatedly stated his intention to move the embassy, the question is not if that move happens, but only when," it continued.
The office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a statement expressing disappointment with the decision.
"Israel's consistent position is that the American embassy, like the embassies of all countries with whom we have diplomatic relations, should be in Jerusalem, our eternal capital. 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," the statement said.
"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."
Many were hoping the president would announce his decision to move the embassy during his recent visit. Now he has kicked the can down the road like his predecessors, former presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and Bill Clinton, who was serving his first term in office when the embassy act was passed.
For more than two decades, the 1995 Jerusalem Embassy Act, stipulating that the embassy be relocated to Jerusalem, has been pushed off.
The waiver is almost always justified on the basis of further complicating the peace process between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, which actively warns against such a move.
While Trump reportedly would like to fulfill his campaign promise, he appears to have opted for postponement to avoid condemnation by Arab nations and other Western allies.
At a Jerusalem Day event last week, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat said to President Trump, "…we are grateful and say again that we want to see the transfer of the embassy to Jerusalem."