We salute President Trump for following through on his promise to move the American Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. As the State Department announced the other day, the U.S. ambassador to Israel will begin working officially from the American consulate in Jerusalem (which will be retitled the American Embassy) sometime in May of this year to roughly coincide with Israel’s 70th Independence Day. Plans meanwhile are under way to build a permanent, new embassy structure in Jerusalem.
When President Trump made a campaign promise to move the American embassy, many believed he wouldn’t follow through, just as his predecessors who had made the same commitment reneged once in office. After his election, Trump reiterated his intentions but seemed to waffle, suggesting it was something that would happen, but, vaguely, not right now.
But then, less than a year into his term, President Trump broke with precedent and announced, on December 6, 2017, that the U.S. recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and that work would begin to move the American embassy to Jerusalem.
Yet, Secretary of State Tillerson followed up by saying that the move “is not going to be anything that happens right away. Probably no earlier than three years out, and that’s pretty ambitious.” This was seen as somewhat of a sop to the Palestinians who were reportedly furious about moving the embassy and a sign that the issue was being pushed somewhat to the backburner. Vice President Pence then chimed in with the observation that the move would take place before the end of 2019, seemingly kicking the can a little less, but still further up the road.
Then came a comment from Prime Minister Netanyahu that the move would take place before the end of 2018. President Trump reacted somewhat cryptically to the prime minister’s remark by saying that was too little time for it to happen and that his administration was not looking at that time frame. But then he followed with: “obviously that would be on a temporary basis.”
After all this ambiguity, now finally comes the announcement that the U.S. will call its current consulate in Jerusalem its embassy and have U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman move there with some of his staff.
Clearly there were some who wanted to wait until a new edifice was built in Jerusalem to house the embassy before moving embassy functions to Jerusalem. A name often used for the U.S. State Department is Foggy Bottom and some suggested that anything could happen in the next few years to the plan to move the embassy.
But true to his word, the president has now ordered the prompt relocation of the embassy and the new edifice will just catch up to the reality he has now put in place.
There is some speculation about why the president moved the schedule up. We think it was because he really wanted it to happen and felt the sooner the better.