President Barack Obama gave President-elect Donald Trump some breathing room before deciding whether to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, renewing on Thursday a presidential waiver suspending the relocation of the embassy for another six months.
“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,” Obama wrote in a memorandum directed to Secretary of State John Kerry.
The Jerusalem Embassy Act, passed by a supermajority of Congress in 1995, stated that “the United States Embassy in Israel should be established in Jerusalem no later than May 31, 1999.” An inbuilt waiver authority allowed the president to postpone the move, in the interests of “national security,” for six-monthly periods. Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Obama have all issued waivers at six-month intervals ever since.
June 1st, 2017 is the next time the president will have to take action. Jewish American supporters of Trump, as well as right-wing parties in Israel, are hoping that this is the last waiver issued on the matter.
In his address to AIPAC in March, Trump promised to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “immediately,” and “move the American embassy to the eternal capital of the Jewish people, Jerusalem.” In a position paper on Israel, released six days before the election, Trump’s advisors suggested that even before negotiations take place between the two sides, “the U.S. will recognize Jerusalem as the eternal and indivisible capital of the Jewish state and move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem.”
But in an interview with the BBC last month, Trump’s senior foreign policy advisor, Walid Phares, indicated that Trump might not relocate the embassy immediately. “Many presidents of the United States have committed to do that and he said as well that he will do that but he will do it in consensus,” Phares said. He later clarified his remarks. “Next administration to create consensus at home to move the embassy to Jerusalem,” Phares tweeted.
In an interview with Jewish Insider, former ADL national director Abe Foxman suggested that the Trump administration should “move the process gradually rather than as a dramatic act.”