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US Consulate in Jerusalem

Several Israeli-based media outlets are repeating a story from an Arab media outlet that the U.S. Embassy move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem is “off the table” due to Arab pressure.

But let’s look at the evidence thus far produced and line it up against reality.

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The reports claiming the Trump administration has backed down from its stated commitment to move the embassy assert the reason that is happening is because of pressure placed on the new administration by the Palestinian Arab leadership.

A story in the Times of Israel quoted a report in the Arabic media outlet Asharq Al-Awsat. That report mentioned that assurances were given to Palestinian Arab leader Mahmoud Abbas and the PA’s perennial negotiator Saeb Erekat in a meeting held on Tuesday with “David Blum,” of the US Consulate in Jerusalem.

But there is no David Blum in the US Consulate in Jerusalem.

The US Consul General in Jerusalem (serving “Jerusalem, Gaza and the ‘West Bank,’ that is, not Jewish Israelis) is Donald Blome. In other words, there must have been a mistranslation going from Arabic to either Hebrew or English.

A quick search of the actual American diplomat in Jerusalem, Donald Blome, reveals that he was appointed in July, 2015 by President Barack Obama, not by President Donald Trump. Given that Blome’s alleged message of reassurance to the Palestinian Arabs that the new administration was bowing to their pressure, it beggars the imagination that Blome was speaking on behalf of Trump.

There is still more evidence that this explosive “evidence” is, at best, an  unofficial remark from a sympathetic holdover from the last – exceedingly hostile – administration. In an updated version of the report on the matter from the very source of the rumor, there have been significant substantive changes in the report.

The first difference is that the name of “David Blum” no longer appears in the report. There is no longer any name associated with any American government office as the source of the claim. This is what the report now says:

A senior Palestinian official told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper that the Palestinian leadership has received reassurances that a plan to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem has been suspended.

The sources added that based on official information, the plan to move the U.S. embassy was no longer under consideration.

While the sources declined to disclose the party that conveyed the reassurance message to the Palestinian leadership, they stressed that authorities in Ramallah were now relieved from the pressure that was caused by such threat.

So Erekat and Abbas’s names are gone, Blum’s name is gone, and the meeting on Tuesday is no longer mentioned.

This latest rumor, especially one boasting that Arab pressure led the Trump administration to cave on a significant campaign promise should be treated as merely the latest ephemera intended to create divisions between the Trump administration and its Israeli and pro-Israel supporters. That, and the effort to make Arab threats of violence seem all-powerful, thereby becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Any statements about whether and when the U.S. Embassy is moved to Jerusalem should only be given credence when made by a Trump administration official whose jurisdiction extends to this matter.

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