President Donald Trump’s decision to buck decades of foreign policy directives by announcing the U.S. will move its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem did not come as a surprise to a number of foreign policy experts.
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It did, however, leave them with a number of questions.
“He obviously made the decision because he made a commitment during the campaign,” said Dennis Ross, a previous ambassador to Israel appointed by former President George H.W. Bush and Middle East envoy under former President Bill Clinton.
Ross also noted that Trump’s decision was likely also influenced by his distaste for the waivers that presidents have signed citing national security concerns as the reason to keep the embassy in Tel Aviv.
Trump noted, in his address at the White House today when he announced the move, how “presidents issued these waivers under the belief that delaying the recognition of Jerusalem would advance the cause of peace…. Nevertheless, the record is in.
“After more than two decades of waivers, we are no closer to a lasting peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. It would be folly to assume that repeating the exact same formula would now produce a different or better result,” Trump continued.
Ross said that Trump’s announcement doesn’t appear to be — at least publicly — part of a much larger, organized step toward a peace plan.
“I think the reality is that this was a move that probably was surprising to many within the administration,” Ross said.
“This is the kind of thing that had the administration spent time preparing this with the Arabs … they might well have been able to work something out,” Ross said, noting that because that didn’t happen, today’s move “leaves these Arab partners on the defensive.”
Elliott Abrams, who served as deputy national security adviser to former President George W. Bush and was a vocal critic of Trump during the campaign, calls the move “long overdue and the proper decision.”
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