Columns

Tillerson: Embassy Move to Jerusalem 'Probably Not Next Year'

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson addresses the media at the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Paris on Dec. 8, 2017. (State Department photo)

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said today that moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem will likely not happen by the end of 2018, while stressing at a meeting in Paris the president’s statements about not making a judgment on the final status of the city.

At a press availability with French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, Tillerson said it “will take some time” for the State Department “to begin the process of making the move of the embassy to Jerusalem” as directed by President Trump this week.

“We have to acquire a site, we have to develop building plans, construction plans – as you point out, ensure we get the authorizations, although I do not anticipate any difficulties getting those authorizations, and then actually build an embassy,” he explained. “So this is not something that’s going to happen this year, probably not next year, but the president does want us to move in a very concrete and steadfast way to ensure the embassy is located in Jerusalem when we are able to do so at the earliest possible time.”

On Wednesday, French President Emmanuel Macron called Trump’s decision “regrettable” and underscored “the attachment of France and Europe to the two-state solution, Israel and Palestine living side by side in peace and security within internationally recognized borders, with Jerusalem as the capital of the two states.”

Tillerson referred back to Trump’s statement when he announced the embassy move.

“This decision is not intended, in any way, to reflect a departure from our strong commitment to facilitate a lasting peace agreement. We want an agreement that is a great deal for the Israelis and a great deal for the Palestinians. We are not taking a position of any final status issues, including the specific boundaries of the Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem, or the resolution of contested borders. Those questions are up to the parties involved,” Trump said.

Tillerson reiterated that Trump’s “decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and his direction to the State Department to begin the process of moving the embassy did not indicate any final status for Jerusalem.”

“And in fact, he was, I think, very clear that the final status of Jerusalem is a matter that would be left – including the borders, would be left to the parties to negotiate and decide,” he added.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday at a digital diplomacy conference on Thursday that Trump “has inscribed himself in the annals of our capital for all time.”

“His name will now be linked to the names of others in the context of the glorious history of Jerusalem and our people. I would like to thank him and the American Congress which, 22 years ago, provided a basis for the recognition until President Trump came and implemented this law,” Netanyahu said, adding “we are already in contact with other countries that will declare similar recognition and I have no doubt that the moment the American embassy moves to Jerusalem, and even before, many more” will also move.