Trump backs off on promise to move Israel embassy to Jerusalem

Will keep American embassy in Tel Aviv despite previous hardline stances

U.S. President Donald Trump has signed an order delaying a move of the American Embassy in Israel from the secular center of Tel Aviv to the capital of Jerusalem, marking a departure from one of his campign positions. Trump had not mentioned that decision in last week’s official visit to Israel. This move by Trump delays the decision for the next six months, after which he will have to make another decision on the matter.

This decision is expected to rankle Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was happy with Trump’s hardline support of Israel in the Middle East hotspot. Netanyahu was pleased when Trump assigned David Friedman, a supporter of Netanyahu’s desire to build settlements in the West Bank, to the post of U.S. Ambassador to Israel, although Trump later stepped in to ask Netanyahu to delay those plans. Other top Republican donors may also be annoyed by the flip-flop, including Sheldon Adelson, Las Vegas casino magnate who owns an Israeli newspaper and is close friends with Netanyahu. Past presidents have kept the embassy in Tel Aviv in hopes to promote a deal between Israel and Palestine, and it seems Trump is also warming to the possibility of brokering such a deal. Reportedly, Trump may have also been influenced by a meeting with King Abdullah II of Jordan, who warned Trump that moving the Embassy to Jerusalem would set off a violent reaction from Arabs in the area.

This decision by Trump is the latest in a string of platform reversals in comparison to what he promised during his presidential campaign. Recently, he has reversed himself on naming China as a currency manipulator, has backed off plans to lift sanctions against Russia, has come around to the usefulness of NATO, and has yet to undo the nuclear deal previous President Barack Obama had brokered with Iran.

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