(WASHINGTON) — The White House is considering new steps toward formally recognizing a unified Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and moving the U.S. embassy there, sources told ABC News.
President Donald Trump faces a Monday deadline to decide whether or not to sign another six-month waiver of a 1995 law that mandates the embassy move, according to the State Department. Trump and his last three predecessors have each delayed an embassy move in part to facilitate peace talks with the Palestinians who oppose it.
While administration officials will not say what Trump will do, it is expected that he will seek a middle ground — advancing plans for an embassy move in some way but likely not making the change immediately. Among options reportedly under consideration: a statement to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital or a directive to American diplomats to conduct all official business there.
Officials said an announcement could come as soon as Friday.
When Israeli media reported this week that steps to relocate the embassy were imminent, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders called the reports “premature” but wouldn’t rule anything out. “We have nothing to announce,” she said.
Action on the Israel embassy issue is intended to show progress on a key Trump campaign promise and aim to energize the Trump base. But it would also be considered highly provocative by Palestinians, who consider East Jerusalem the capital of a future state, and could trigger protests from America’s Arab allies.
“Last June the president said that it was a question of when the embassy would move, not if,” a U.S. embassy official told ABC News.
Vice President Mike Pence suggested this week in a speech honoring the 70th anniversary of U.N. recognition of Israel that the administration is simply down to sorting out logistics.
“President Donald Trump is actively considering when and how to move the American embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem,” Pence said.
Moving the U.S. embassy in Israel, if it’s given a green light, will not be a quick process, sources said. A new facility would require new money from Congress. The State Department would also need to identify and vet real estate to purchase and work with Diplomatic Security to ensure safety.
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