A week before his presidential inauguration, Donald Trump sat down with the Times of London, which asked, “Is it true you’re going to move the American embassy [in Israel] from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem?” The Republican responded, “Well, I don’t want to comment on that … but we’ll see what happens.”
Yes, evidently, we will.
President Trump signed an order keeping the American Embassy in Tel Aviv rather than move it to Jerusalem as he promised during last year’s campaign, aides said Thursday, disappointing many Israel supporters in hopes of preserving his chances of negotiating a peace settlement.
Mr. Trump made no mention of his pending decision during a visit to Jerusalem just last week and waited to announce it until almost the last minute he could under law, underscoring the deep political sensitivity of the matter. The order he will sign waives for six months a congressional edict requiring the embassy be located in Jerusalem, after which he will have to consider the matter again.
As regular readers may recall, in 1995, Congress passed a law that would move the United States’ Israeli embassy to Jerusalem, but the legislation came with a catch: U.S. presidents could delay the move for security reasons.
And that’s precisely what every president has done since. Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama each signed waivers, keeping the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv. There’s no great mystery as to why: because of Jerusalem’s unique significance – politically, historically, religiously – putting the U.S. embassy in the city would signal that the United States sees Jerusalem as Israel’s official capital. That would touch off a series of repercussions that would risk destabilizing the region.
None of this is new for those familiar with the basics of the debate, but Donald Trump nevertheless publicly vowed last year that he would do what other recent presidents would not do. Vote for him, Trump said, and he’d move that embassy.
Those who trusted him to follow through on that commitment have learned a valuable lesson.
The New York Times’ report added, “The decision is the latest shift away from campaign positions upending traditional foreign policy as Mr. Trump spends more time in office and learns more about the trade-offs involved. He has reversed himself on declaring China a currency manipulator, backed off plans to lift sanctions against Russia, declared that NATO is not ‘obsolete’ after all, opted for now not to rip up President Barack Obama’s nuclear agreement with Iran and ordered a punitive strike against Syria that he previously opposed in similar circumstances.”
Trump’s “it turns out” problem continues, and in this case, it turns out his promises born of ignorance came at too high a price.