White House: Reports of Israel embassy move are 'premature'

By Sara Shayanian  |  Nov. 30, 2017 at 11:01 AM
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Nov. 30 (UPI) -- The White House dismissed rumors this week that a Trump administration plan is imminent to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

Calling news reports indicating a potential move "premature," White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump administration officials "have nothing to announce."

President Donald Trump has until this weekend to decide whether to sign a waiver suspending for six months a 1995 law that mandates moving the embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported.

Every president, including Trump in June, has signed the waiver every six months since the law passed.

Although Trump campaigned on moving the embassy to Jerusalem, it is unclear whether he will decide sign the waiver.

However, at a pro-Israel event on Tuesday, Vice President Mike Pence said the United States and Trump were "actively considering when and how" to move the embassy.

Signing off on a plan to move the embassy would likely anger Palestinians, who say the eastern sector of Jerusalem was captured by Israel in 1967, said Ilan Goldenberg director of the Middle East security program at the Center for a New American Security.

"This step would kill the possibility of a peace deal anytime soon," Goldenberg told NBC News. "The Arab states would be furious. The Jordanians would be worried. The Palestinians would walk away from any discussion."

Jordan's King Abdullah II, who was in Washington as the reports came out, urged Trump to promote a two-state solution, warning officials that a lack of peace talks could promote extremism and terrorism in the region.

"Moving the embassy would bring significant new tensions within the Arab world between the citizens and their governments," Rami Khouri, a professor of Middle East politics at the American University of Beirut, said.

"It's very symbolic, very emotional and will create serious backlash if the administration follows through with it."

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