Jerusalem is the capital of Israel.

The U.S. Embassy is in Tel Aviv, and a consulate in Jerusalem.

Trump promised during the campaign to “move” the Embassy to Jerusalem. A physical move isn’t actually needed, the Jerusalem Consulate could simply be redesignated at the Embassy. Most of the diplomats enjoying their beautiful beachfront views in Tel Aviv could stay there.

As Prof. Miriam Elman explained in a prior post, locating the Embassy in Jerusalem would have a profoundly positive impact on the prospects for peace, since it would signal that Arab and Muslim threats of violence against the Jewish presence in Jerusalem would be futile, Move U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, for peace sake:

relocating the embassy allows the Trump administration to reinforce that, unlike the Obama administration, it doesn’t consider settlements the key obstacle to peace. Trump will be particularly keen to make this distinction after the U.S. abstention on Friday’s United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334 – which effectively declares illegal all Israeli presence beyond the 1949 armistice lines, including east Jerusalem.

Since before even taking office, Trump has faced a barrage of threats of violence from Palestinians if the Embassy relocated, Palestinian leadership: There will be violence if U.S. moves Embassy to Jerusalem:

It was an extremely well-orchestrated campaign both at the leadership and terror levels, Palestinians already planning terror campaign if U.S. Embassy moves to Jerusalem. It also was a two-faced move, Palestinian leadership’s two-faced Jerusalem Embassy game:

We reported the other day on the escalating campaign by Palestinian leaders threatening and predicting violence if the U.S. moves our embassy to Jerusalem, Palestinian leadership: There will be violence if U.S. moves Embassy to Jerusalem.

While Hamas is behind some of the incitement, an important feature of incitement regarding the Embassy is manufactured by the Palestinian Authority, headed by Mahmoud Abbas, through Mosques run by Imams loyal to the PA. Leaders, such as Mahmoud Abbas, then use the violence they are instigating behind-the-scenes to warn that an Embassy move might inspire violence.

I was concerned early on that Trump would succumb to these threats, which feed the Arabist wing of the State Department which for several decades has argued for a more pro-Arab foreign policy, Will Trump capitulate to Palestinian threats over U.S. Embassy move to Jerusalem?

Capitulation encourages more threats of violence, and actual violence, as a Palestinian policy tool. Calling their bluff could be a major move towards peace, as it will remove threats as a negotiating position.

Will Trump capitulate?

There were early signs Trump was weakening in his resolve in the face of these threats, Has Trump gone soft on Jerusalem Embassy move after threats of violence?

Donald Trump repeatedly promised to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Israel’s capital, Jerusalem.

That promise was made not only during the campaign, but after the election.

In response, the Palestinians did what they always do — internationalize the conflict coupled with threats of violence.

Numerous high officials in the Palestinian Authority issued increasingly vitriolic threats and attempts to turn the Embassy move into an act against Islam….

Until Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s press briefing yesterday [January 23, 2017], I would have said there was no way Trump would capitulate. But then Spicer dropped what was a bombshell — that no decision had been made whether to move the Embassy and that discussions were only in the “very early stages” ….

The question rises again, has Trump capitulated to Islamist threats of violence?

This has all the appearances of the State Department using its historically poor judgment about the Arab world to slow walk and stymie Trump’s promise to move the Embassy.

Today was the deadline for Trump to sign a “waiver” which is being portrayed as delaying the U.S. Embassy move for at least 6 months. That’s not technically true; the waiver in question doesn’t directly address the move, it addressed budget cuts the State Department would bear under congressional legislation, as Prof. Eugene Kontorovich explained:

The waiver available to the president under the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 does not waive the obligation to move the embassy. That policy has been fully adopted by Congress in the Act (sec. 3(a)(3)) and is not waivable. Of course, Congress cannot simply order the president to implement such a move, especially given his core constitutional power over diplomatic relations.

But Congress, having total power over the spending of taxpayer dollars, does not have to pay for an embassy in Tel Aviv. The Act’s enforcement mechanism is to suspend half of the appropriated funds for the State Department’s “Acquisition and Maintenance of Buildings Abroad” until the law’s terms are complied with. The waiver provision simply allows the president to waive the financial penalty.

What this means is that by not signing a waiver, Trump would not actually be requiring the embassy to move to Jerusalem, moving the embassy or recognizing Jerusalem. That could give him significant diplomatic flexibility or deniability if June 1 goes by with mere silence from the White House.

Moreover, the law says nothing about “moving” the embassy. Rather, the requirement is to “officially open” an embassy, which can be done with a mere declaration upgrading the status of one of the existing consular facilities in the city. It does not require the physical relocation of the facility in Tel Aviv.

By failing to sign the waiver, Trump effectively could have forced the State Department to make the move under threat of severe budget cuts, without Trump doing a thing.

But Trump signed the waiver today. The Free Beacon reports:

The White House announced early Thursday that Trump had signed a presidential waiver to keep the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv for at least another six months. This waiver has been issued by every U.S. president since Congress passed a 1995 law mandating that the embassy be moved to Jerusalem, Israel’s contested capital city.

Senior administration officials told the Washington Free Beacon that Trump remains “committed” to ultimately relocating the U.S. embassy, but has decided to hold off in the short term in order to appease the Palestinians—who also claim the ancient city as their own—and try to make progress in Middle East peace talks.

NBC News reports on the White House explanation:

“While President Donald J. Trump signed the waiver under the Jerusalem Embassy Act and delayed moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, no one should consider this step to be in any way a retreat from the President’s strong support for Israel and for the United States-Israel alliance,” the White House said in a statement.

Trump’s decision to delay the embassy move, according to the statement, is meant to “maximize the chances of successfully negotiating a deal between Israel and the Palestinians, fulfilling his solemn obligation to defend America’s national security interests.”

The waiver appears to be capitulation, if not to outright threats of violence at least to Palestinian negotiating tactics. This is a mistake.

Trump could have made a bold decision, but now that he has expressed his desire to close the ultimate deal, the Jerusalem Embassy once again is held hostage to Palestinian threats.


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