Trump top aide says relocating US embassy to Jerusalem a 'very big priority'
Timothy A. CLARY (AFP)
President-elect Donald Trump's campaign promise to see the American Embassy in Israel moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem is a "very big priority" top Trump aide Kellyanne Conway said Monday.
"That is very big priority for this president-elect, Donald Trump," Conway said during an interview with radio host Hugh Hewitt. "He made it very clear during the campaign, and as president-elect I’ve heard him repeat it several times privately, if not publicly."
"It is something that our friend Israel, a great friend in the Middle East, would appreciate and something that a lot of Jewish-Americans have expressed their preference for," Conway said. "It is a great move. It is an easy move to do based on how much he talked about that in the debates and in the soundbites."
Israel's Channel 2 news, meanwhile, reported that a Trump team was already scouting possible locations for the embassy in Jerusalem. According to the report, the team was inquiring about when a possible sight might be available in an area that includes the Fiplomat Hotel in the city's Talpiot neighborhood.
The Diplomat Hotel is a privately owned complex on lands purchased by the US government in 2014. The area is adjacent to the existing US Consulate in the city, and has therefore been considered a logical site for the embassy should it be moved.
However the Hotel itself is currently leased out to Israel's Immigrant Absorption Ministry and is home to some 500 elderly immigrants from the former Soviet Union, and would therefore not be available until at least 2020.
The Trump scouting team's actions were reportedly being carried out without the coordination of the US State Department, Channel 2 said, an officials there reportedly "deeply dislike the idea."
During his campaign, Trump vowed if elected to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's "undivided" capital and see the embassy moved to the holy city.
After a September meeting with Netanyahu in New York, Trump's campaign released a statement saying the candidate "acknowledged that Jerusalem has been the eternal capital of the Jewish people for over 3,000 years".
"The United States, under a Trump administration, will finally accept the long-standing congressional mandate to recognise Jerusalem as the undivided capital of the state of Israel," it added.
Israel captured the eastern half of Jerusalem during the 1967 Six-Day war and annexed it in 1980, declaring all of Jerusalem Israel's unified capital. The Palestinians see east Jerusalem as the capital of their promised future state.
The United States and most other UN member countries do not recognize Israel's annexation and consider Jerusalem's final status to be a key issue to be resolved in peace negotiations aimed at a two-state settlement.
In 1995, US Congress passed the "Jerusalem Embassy Act" for the funding of moving the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, but every president since then has exercised their waiver to stop this, claiming it cannot be done for reasons of national security.
Outgoing President Barack Obama earlier this month renewed the presidential waiver delaying the embassy's relocation by another six months.
The final two countries to operate full embassies in Jerusalem, Costa Rica and El Salvador, relocated to Tel Aviv in 2006.
(Staff with agencies)
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Finally we have a true supporter of Israel in the POTUS-elect Mr. Trump if he goes thru with his promise. The land has been set aside for the embassy. Just saw it a month ago.
About time this happened.
Make the move. Rather than construction of Jerusalem with a landscape of 6 Star Hotels and lavish Museums..Waste of money and housing, the USA should move the Embassy. Hopefully this relocation will motivate BIBI to relocate the Russian-era population.