After days of noncommittal statements about the status of Israel’s capital city, the Trump administration has finally come clean about its position on Jerusalem. An administration official told Conservative Review Wednesday that the Trump-led government rejects Israel’s claims to sovereignty over the entirety of its historic capital of Jerusalem.
Conservative Review reached out to the State Department after U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, a high-ranking administration official, called for the administration to move its embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
“I believe that the capital should be Jerusalem and the embassy should be moved to Jerusalem because if you look at all their government is in Jerusalem,” Haley told CBN Tuesday.
Although her comments were received as encouraging by the pro-Israel community, Haley appeared to contradict statements made Tuesday by national security adviser H.R. McMaster and press secretary Sean Spicer. Both officials refused to answer whether the Western Wall (a Jewish holy site that is in Jerusalem and claimed by Israel) is part of Israel. Spicer, for his part, stated that the Western Wall “is in Jerusalem.”
A U.S. official clarified to Conservative Review that the official Trump administration position on Jerusalem is the same as the Obama administration’s. Israel’s claims over Jerusalem are not recognized and should be solved through negotiations with the Palestinians, the official explained.
“The Western Wall is located in Jerusalem. While we certainly recognize the strong connection between the Jewish people and the Western Wall, the holiest site in Judaism, our position on Jerusalem is unchanged,” the administration official tells Conservative Review.
“Since 1948, every administration has taken the official position that no state has sovereignty over the city of Jerusalem. The status of Jerusalem is an issue that should be resolved in final status negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians,” the official added.
By proclaiming that “no state has sovereignty” over Jerusalem, the Trump administration finds itself in a position that is wholly rejected by a bipartisan consensus of congressional leaders.
The Jerusalem Embassy Act, which was originally passed in 1995 by an almost unanimous consensus in Congress, calls for the United States to move its embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Past presidents have put off moving the embassy or even recognizing Israel’s capital, for fear that doing so would incite Muslim nations throughout the region.
Conservative leaders such as Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and House Freedom Caucus chair Mark Meadows, R-N.C., both released statements yesterday supporting Israel’s claims to Jerusalem. Even Democrat Senator Steny Hoyer, D-Md., called the refusal to include the Western Wall as part of Israel “shocking and offensive.”
On the campaign trail, President Trump pledged to move the “American embassy to the eternal capital of the Jewish people, Jerusalem.” Since becoming president, his advisers have dramatically walked back that position. Some reports indicate that the president is now using the Jerusalem sovereignty issue as a bargaining chip with an eye toward Israel’s negotiations with the Palestinians.
President Trump will arrive in Israel on May 22 and will visit the Western Wall.
Jordan Schachtel is the national security correspondent for Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @JordanSchachtel.
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