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Embassy should be moved to Jerusalem

31 May 2017

Donald Trump began his maiden worldwide trip as US president Friday, leaving the White House awash in a slew of controversies that has some politicians invoking comparisons to the Watergate scandal that brought down the presidency of Richard Nixon. But with mounting obstacles at home and overseas, he faces long odds of succeeding where more experienced predecessors have failed. Moving the American embassy there would be a de facto recognition of Israel's sovereignty in the area and would rebuff Palestinian claims.

A diplomatic blowup over the status of Jerusalem, followed by revelations Trump had shared highly classified Israeli intelligence with Russian Federation, has reinforced the president's image as dangerously unpredictable. According to the official quoted on Bloomberg News, the USA administration considers its discussions with both the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority to be promising, with the Palestinians in particular agreeing to talk without preconditions. In January, 79 percent of respondents in a similar poll had said this about Trump, who is scheduled to visit Israel on Monday as part of his first presidential trip overseas.

Trump has also been tempted to think he's the man who can solve the puzzle of Middle East peace that eluded his predecessors. Top advisers he has tasked with nuts-and-bolts negotiations, led by his son-in-law Jared Kushner, are also lacking experience.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Trump spoke by phone on Tuesday afternoon, a spokesman for the premier's office said, while stressing that they only discussed next week's trip during the 20-minute conversation.

The White House has not yet announced President Trump's decision on the issue, which is sure to come up during his trip this week to the region.

Israeli officials appear unconvinced. The official asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the matter.

Flying in directly from his first stop in Saudi Arabia, Trump is unlikely to lay out Middle East peace proposals, not least because, as aides acknowledge, his administration has yet to craft a strategy.

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"(Trump) has expressed a general concern", the official reportedly said.

"It is something that I think is, frankly, maybe not as hard as people have thought over the years", the US president said at the time.

The Palestinian official declared that Washington and Jerusalem "will bear responsibility for the return of the bloodshed in the Palestinian territories".

Israeli officials have been especially unnerved by Trump.

"I get the sense that there are certain questions indeed", said Michael Oren, a deputy government minister involved in visit preparations, addressing the question of jitters on the Palestinian issue. But on Israel, they may be feeding him the same myths that drove Obama to put pressure on the Jewish state rather than the Palestinians.

Trump has signaled as recently as January that he was inclined to keep his promise on Jerusalem, telling a conservative Israeli newspaper the day before his inauguration: "You know, I'm not a person who breaks promises".

President Donald Trump will not relocate the USA embassy in Tel Aviv, Israel, to Jerusalem, according to multiple reports Wednesday.

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The Orthodox Union, which had complained earlier in the week about McMaster's comments, was "disappointed" in the news that Trump would not be moving the embassy now, said Nathan Diament, its Washington director.

One possible factor: the absence of a firm decision as to whether he will move the USA embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, as promised.

"Sadly, every U.S. President since then has taken advantage of a provision in the law allowing its requirements to be waived for six months if 'necessary to protect the national security interests of the United States.' Such suspensions have been repeated semi-annually for two decades, and it is time to end America's doublespeak", the letter stated.

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, in preparation for next week's visit by Trump, is known to be hoping to gain support for the United States embassy move, as it would be interpreted as validating Israel's 1967 annexation of the eastern section of Jerusalem, and a slap in the face to Palestine's original claims on the region.

Some Gulf Arab diplomats have floated the notion of making a positive gesture toward Israel, possibly a limited upgrading of diplomatic and economic ties, in exchange for up-front concessions to the Palestinians.

"The U.S. president assured him he will be able to find a settlement within one year", he added.

"The president may be right, this is the ultimate deal", he said, "but it's definitely not just around the corner".

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