Trump likely to put off Israel embassy move

Six months after he grudgingly postponed moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, President Trump seems on track to do so again — breaking a frequent campaign promise that, if kept, risks deeply angering the Muslim world.

Government officials cautioned Yahoo News on Thursday that Trump has not yet revealed his final decision. But, they said, his top foreign policy advisers see no choice but to use his waiver authority under a 1995 U.S. law that requires the United States to move its embassy to Jerusalem but gives presidents the power to delay it in six-month increments. The statutory deadline for Trump to make the decision is Monday.

But the tentative White House plan is to couple the waiver with steps that would signal support for the move in the future, according to those officials. They declined to describe the basket of options under consideration, but the Associated Press reported that Trump could recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital — a major shift in U.S. policy, and one that risks inflaming anti-U.S. sentiment among Islamic populations around the world. An informed source told Yahoo News that Trump was considering giving a speech, most likely on Wednesday, to announce that new position.

Vice President Mike Pence said in a speech on Tuesday that Trump “is actively considering when and how to move the American Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.” Pence is due to visit Israel in mid-December and address its parliament, the Knesset.

An Israeli border police officer guards the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv as other Israelis line up for U.S. visas. (Photo: Eitan Hess-Ashkenazi/AP)

In practice, Pence was simply reiterating the principles of the 1995 law, which requires the move but gives presidents the leeway to hold off if they certify that doing so is “necessary to protect the national security interests of the United States.” Failure to invoke the waiver would trigger the law’s enforcement mechanism — a 50 percent cut in State Department funding for acquisition and maintenance of facilities overseas until the administration certifies that the embassy in Jerusalem has opened. Officials say that would require the construction of a new embassy because simply relabeling the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem as an embassy is not feasible.

The obstacles to the move are not logistical — they are geopolitical. Israel has claimed Jerusalem as its undivided capital since 1950 and supports moving the U.S. Embassy…

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