(JTA) – The Trump administration is in the “beginning stages” of discussing whether to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, the White House press secretary said. “We are at the very beginning stages of even discussing this subject,” Sean Spicer said Sunday, Jan. 22 in a statement that came hours before President Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke by telephone.
On Tuesday, Trump told an Israeli reporter in Washington, D.C. that he will move the embassy to Jerusalem. Boaz Bismuth of Israel Hayom reported that during a conversation with Trump, he asked the then-president-elect if he remembered telling him in a previous interview that he would make the embassy move and recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. He reported that Trump replied: “Of course I remember what I told you about Jerusalem. Of course I didn’t forget. And you know I’m not a person who breaks promises.”
Kellyanne Conway, a top Trump adviser, told conservative talk radio host Hugh Hewitt during a show in December that moving the embassy was a “big priority” for Trump. “It is an easy move to do based on how much he talked about that in the debates and in the sound bites.”
The nominee for U.S. ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, has reportedly said in private conversations that he will “work and live in Jerusalem,” Ynet reported. The official ambassador’s residence is located in Herzliya. Friedman owns an apartment in the Talbiyeh neighborhood of Jerusalem, which he reportedly visits several times a year. Friedman is expected to arrive in Israel at the end of February and take up his job as ambassador. He has yet to be confirmed by the Senate.
Congress recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in 1995 and passed a law mandating the move to Jerusalem. But the law included a waiver that lapses every six months allowing the president to delay the move for national security reasons, which every president since Bill Clinton has used.