US Vice President Mike Pence has reiterated that President Donald Trump is giving “serious consideration” to moving the US embassy to Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, two months after White House bluster on the subject had appeared to die down.
“After decades of simply talking about it, the president of the United States is giving serious consideration to moving the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem,“ Mr Pence told a crowd of thousands of pro-Israel activists and lobbyists on Sunday at the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) convention in Washington DC.
The holy city is contested by Israel and the Palestinians, who both claim it as their capital.
Mr Trump’s inflammatory promise – made on the campaign trail – was condemned by the international community, which is worried that such a symbolic move could spark renewed violence in Israel and the Muslim world.
Many presidential candidates have made similar pledges in the past to appeal to right-wing Jewish voters, but none have followed through during their administrations. While technically a law was passed to move the embassy in 1995, all presidents since – Bill Clinton, George W Bush and Barack Obama – have signed orders suspending it. The current waiver expires on June 1 2017.
After President Trump took office in January the White House appeared more cautious on the subject, although during a press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last month, Mr Trump said, “I’d love to see [the relocation] happen. We’re looking at it very, very strongly. We’re looking at it with great care.”
Mr Pence’s mention of a possible move – which Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has warned against, and the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) has threatened to revoke recognition of Israel over – marked the first public comments on moving the embassy in almost two months.
The Vice President also reiterated that Mr Trump is committed to “finding an equitable and just solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict” and “forging a lasting peace in the Middle East.”
Mr Trump’s pick for Israeli Ambassador, pro-settlement bankruptcy lawyer David Friedman, was confirmed by the Senate last Thursday and is due to be sworn into office later this week. It is understood he will live and work in Tel Aviv for the time being.
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