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Trump delays moving US Embassy to Jerusalem

US President Donald Trump (R) greets Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after a joint news conference at the White House in Washington, on 15 February, 2017 [REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque]
US President Donald Trump (R) greets Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after a joint news conference at the White House in Washington, on 15 February, 2017 [REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque]

President Donald Trump today signed an order to keep the US Embassy in Israel in Tel Aviv instead of relocating it to Jerusalem, despite his campaign pledge to go ahead with the controversial move.

After months of fierce debate within his administration, Trump chose to continue his predecessors’ policy of signing a six-month waiver overriding a 1995 law requiring that the embassy be transferred to Jerusalem, an action that would have complicated his efforts to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

The White House insisted, however, that the decision did not mean that Trump was abandoning the goal of eventually shifting the embassy to Jerusalem. But a US official said no timetable has been set.

He has repeatedly stated his intention to move the embassy… The question is not if that move happens, but only when.

the White House said in a statement.

With a deadline looming, Trump made the decision to defer action on the embassy “to maximize the chances of successfully negotiating a deal between Israel and the Palestinians, fulfilling his solemn obligation to defend America’s national security interests,” the White House said.

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“No one should consider this step to be in any way a retreat from the president’s strong support for Israel and for the United States-Israel alliance,” according to the White House statement on the signing of the waiver.

Palestinian leaders, Arab governments and Western allies had urged Trump not to proceed with the embassy relocation, which would have upended decades of US policy by granting what would have been seen as de facto US recognition of Israel’s claim to all of Jerusalem as its capital.

“Though Israel is disappointed that the embassy will not move at this time, we appreciate today’s expression of President Trump’s friendship to Israel and his commitment to moving the embassy in the future,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said in a statement.

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