President Trump today delayed the move of the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, according to a White House official, putting off delivery of a major campaign promise to supporters for the time being.
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Trump's signing of the waiver should not be a considered "in any way a retreat from the president's strong support for Israel and for the United States-Israel alliance," White House press secretary Sean Spicer said in a statement.
Under the passage of the Jerusalem Embassy Act in 1995, the president must sign a waiver every six months to delay the move of the embassy to Jerusalem. Every president since President Bill Clinton has pushed off the move, citing national security concerns.
Israel has claimed the entire, undivided city of Jerusalem as its capital after taking control of the eastern portion of the city in the 1967 conflict. But that claim, which is not recognized internationally, is disputed by Palestinians and neighboring Arab countries who want part of the city to serve as the capital for any future Palestinian state.
While the White House had signaled the president would sign the waiver, Trump repeatedly vowed during his White House bid to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, a pledge welcomed in Israel.
"We will move the American embassy to the eternal capital of the Jewish people, Jerusalem," Trump said in his address to the pro-Israel American Israel Public Affairs Committee last year.
In his statement today, Spicer said Trump made the decision partly to "maximize the chances" of a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians. The move would have likely sparked fierce backlash from Palestinians and across the Middle East.
"As he has repeatedly stated his intention to move the embassy, the question is not if that move happens but only when," Spicer said in his statement.