Pence says Trump 'actively considering' US embassy move to Jerusalem
Shahar Azran/World Jewish Congress
US vice-president Mike Pence on Tuesday announced that President Donald Trump is “actively considering when and how” to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a highly contested topic in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, that Trump had previously wavered on.
The remark was made during a keynote speech in New York, commemorating the 70 year anniversary of its 1947 “Partition Plan” that split the British Mandate of Palestine into two states, leading to the establishment of Israel in May of 1948.
The event was held at the Queens Museum, where the General Assembly partition vote took place. The main building of the museum served as the temporary home of the UN shortly after its founding, from 1946 to 1950.
Pence, who is set to visit Israel next month, attended a symbolic re-enactment of the November 29, 1947 UN General Assembly vote, on the eve of its 70th anniversary, where he delivered an effusive speech.
"President Donald Trump is actively considering when and how to move the American embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem," Pence told the gathering of UN ambassadors, diplomats and Jewish leaders, evoking a campaign promise that had been sidelined when Trump signed a waiver to delay the move for six months on June 1.
"It's a question of when, not if," a US official said at the time. "He doesn't think the timing is right, right now."
Come December 1, Trump will have to again decide whether to follow through with the move or delay another six months, a repeated practice by previous administrations.
In 1995, Congress made it US policy to move the embassy to Jerusalem, symbolically endorsing Israel's claim on the city as its capital, but the law contained a clause that has allowed each president since to issue and renew a six-month waiver on carrying out the move.
The intention to move the embassy has been welcomed by Israel, but slammed by the Palestinians and many other countries and international organizations as a move that could sink the peace process.
The status of Jerusalem is a flashpoint issue in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state, while Israel has declared the entire city as its capital. Most countries have their embassies located in Tel Aviv.
During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump vowed several times to move the US embassy, which like other international missions is currently located in Tel Aviv because of Jerusalem's disputed status. The promise was a break from typical US policy.
However, despite his campaign promises, Trump signed the presidential waiver to delay the move, stating that it was in order to "maximize the chances of successfully negotiating a deal between Israel and the Palestinians."
Despite his wavering on the issue, Pence reiterated his administration's support of Israel at the UN event.
"The President sent me here with a simple message," he stated. "That under our administration, America will always stand with Israel."
“If the world knows nothing else, the world will know this: America stands with Israel,” adding that US support for Israel's security was "at a record level."
In response to Pence's address, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a speech via satellite at the event, asking the Vice-President to “convey our appreciation” to the President for the continued support of the Jewish State.
AFP contributed to this report.
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Should Comey & his (Clinton) team be prosecuted for treason?
Many of our Israeli friends & family really don’t care where the Embassy is situated, so the statement about the Israelis wanting to move the Embassy to Jerusalem is untrue.