White House faces deadline for clarity on Israel embassy move
Twice a year for the past nineteen years, presidents have issued a “suspension of limitations” set forth by specific provisions of the Jerusalem Embassy Act– a waiver that allows them to delay moving the US Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem “in order to protect the national security interests of the United States.” These waivers have become routine administrative procedure, as presidents from both parties have long found agreement against moving the embassy before Israelis and Palestinians reach a comprehensive and lasting peace agreement. Since the unification of Jerusalem under Israeli control 50 years ago, American leaders have feared that moving the embassy would compromise the nation’s broader strategic goals in the region, costing them more abroad than the move would be politically worth at home. And so, once every December and June since 1998, the White House has exercised its authority to waive an appropriations requirement that would suspend 50% of the State Department’s buildings maintenance budget until the secretary of state verifies he has opened a Jerusalem embassy.
Given that the law requires confirmation of an embassy opening – not simply of a president’s general intent – it seems likely that US President Donald Trump will issue his first of these waivers later this week. But conservative American Jewish groups and Israel advocacy organizations in favor of the move hope that he will attach an addendum to the waiver notice, outlining his plans to relocate the embassy in due time. In past years, the White House has not treated the first day of June or December as a sacrosanct deadline – the matter was dealt with on the second day of June in 2014, and the third in 2015. White House officials told The Jerusalem Post they have nothing yet to announce on the matter.
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