In direct contradiction of a key campaign promise, US President Donald Trump signed a waiver on Wednesday, delaying the enactment of the Jerusalem Embassy Act for another six months. The move is a blow to millions of pro-Israel voters who were instrumental in helping Trump win the presidential election.
The Jerusalem Embassy Act, passed in Congress in 1995, authorized moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, but allowed for a presidential veto lasting six-months based on security concerns. Since the law was passed, every president has signed the veto preventing the move, the last time being in December by former President Barack Obama in his final days in office. The veto expired on Wednesday at midnight.
The White House released a statement explaining the decision was to enhance the possibility of successful negotiations between the Palestinians and Israel, and the president has full intention of ordering the embassy move sometime in the future.
“While President Donald J. Trump signed the waiver under the Jerusalem Embassy Act and delayed moving the US Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, no one should consider this step to be in any way a retreat from the President’s strong support for Israel and for the United States-Israel alliance.
President Trump made this decision to maximize the chances of successfully negotiating a deal between Israel and the Palestinians, fulfilling his solemn obligation to defend America’s national security interests. But, as he has repeatedly stated his intention to move the embassy, the question is not if that move happens, but only when.
Trump garnered strong support among pro-Israel Jews and Christians during his run for the presidency by promising to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, most notably during his speech at the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) annual policy conference in March 2016, when he declared that if elected, “We will move the American embassy to the eternal capital of the Jewish people, Jerusalem.”
As rumors increased that the administration was distancing itself from the promise in recent months, evangelical and Jewish leaders stepped up to urge Trump to fulfill his promise.
“President Trump’s promise to move the embassy to Jerusalem was of critical importance to millions of Christian Zionists who ultimately supported his bid for the White House. They will be watching what the president does very closely,” Pastor John Hagee, founder of influential Christian Zionist group Christians United for Israel, said last week.
Nathan Diament, executive director for public policy for the Orthodox Union, echoed the sentiment on behalf of Trump’s Jewish supporters. “A majority of American Orthodox Jews voted for Mr. Trump because of the expectation that he would be a more supportive president for Israel,” he said.