Columns

Trump Wants to 'Give a Shot' to Peace Process 'Before I Even Think' About Moving Tel Aviv Embassy

Israeli policemen guard the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv as other Israelis line up for U.S. visas on March 17, 2003. (AP Photo/Eitan Hess-Ashkenazi, File)

President Trump said in an interview aired Saturday that he wants to put the peace process with Palestinians before his campaign promise to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, sparking criticism from a Likud minister who called Trump’s strategy an “illusion.”

Talking to Mike Huckabee on the Trinity Broadcasting Network, Trump said of an Israeli-Palestinian peace process, “I want to give that a shot before I even think about moving the embassy to Jerusalem.”

“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,” he said.

Trump promised details of his peace plan, including a decision on the timeframe of an embassy move, “in the not-too-distant future.”

The president said that “the Middle East when I took over was a mess, and it’s much less of a mess now but we have problems.”

At the beginning of June, Trump announced that he wouldn’t be moving the embassy at the time because forging a peace deal with the Palestinians, who strongly oppose the move, was a priority.

Trump promised during the presidential campaign that he would relocate the U.S. diplomatic facility. “We will move the American embassy to the eternal capital of the Jewish people, Jerusalem,” he told AIPAC in a 2016 address.

After getting into the Oval Office, Trump said he’d study the issue. “I’d love to see that happen,” Trump said at a February press conference alongside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “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. OK?”

When Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas visited at the beginning of May, Trump did not answer a question from the press pool about moving the embassy. Trump said he wanted “to support [Abbas] in being the Palestinian leader who signs his name to the final and most important peace agreement that brings safety, stability, prosperity to both peoples and to the region.”

The Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 requires that the president move the embassy to Jerusalem, but each president has invoked the law’s national security waiver every six months since.

Ze’ev Elkin, minister for Jerusalem affairs and environmental protection, said after Trump’s latest comments that further Israeli settlement construction could be forthcoming and delaying the embassy move wouldn’t make a difference in the peace process.

“I deeply regret that President Trump has chosen to delay keeping his election promise to move the American embassy to Jerusalem because of the illusion that it will be possible to advance any real peace process with the current Palestinian leadership,” Elkin said.

Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely said Sunday that Israel “can’t give peace a chance when Hamas and Fatah want to be a part of the same government.”

“If you really would like to give peace a chance you would move your embassy to Jerusalem, in order to ensure that Jerusalem will never be divided,” she said.