Donald Trump’s transition team is signaling that the US is ready to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
The ruling conservative coalition in Israel hails the election of Trump as positive for Israel’s position in the region. With big cleavages over settlement policy and Iran, Tel Aviv and the Obama Administration did not have the warmest of relationships.
Not “if” but “how”
Trump’s campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, told a conservative radio broadcaster on Monday that this is one of the President-elect priorities, Israeli media report.
The Times of Israel reports that Trump’s transition team is no longer contemplating “if” but “how,” focusing on the logistics of the move. The US Department and Israel’s foreign ministry are already reviewing possible locations. According to Israel’s Channel 2, one of the buildings under consideration is the Diplomat Hotel, which is adjacent to the US Consulate.
Paradigmatic US Shift
During the campaign, Trump committed to the move in more than one occasions. He first made the promise during the primaries in an AIPAC event in March. AIPAC is the US-Israeli lobby.
Jerusalem is part of the occupied territories occupied by Israel in 1967.
In 1995 the Congress decided to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move there is Embassy. However, successive administrations have deferred the implementation of the decision, treating in effect the status of the city as a subject of negotiations for a two-state solution.
The US has not officially recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel since 1950.
Now, the US Department is cooperating with Israeli authorities following the instructions of the President-elect transition team. In December, President Obama signed a bill to renew a delay in the move of the embassy.
The Arab world is not likely to take kindly to this dramatic shift in US policy, while a Palestinian grassroots reaction is possible.
This is also likely to be one of the first cleavages of the Trump administration with Brussels. The EU does not recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and member states are obliged to label products produced in East Jerusalem. In line with UN Resolution 181, Brussels envisions Jerusalem as the shared capital of Israel and Palestine.
Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said ten days ago that it would be unwise to destabilize the Palestinian Authority vis-à-vis Hamas and Hezbollah by making the embassy a focal point of contention.