The clock is ticking on President Trump’s decision over whether to move the American embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, Israel’s capital city. He has until June 1 to decide on whether to move the embassy, or keep it in place for an indefinite amount of time.
Since 1995, American presidents have balked on a law committing the U.S. to moving the embassy. Will President Trump stay true to his outsider bonafides and shake up the status quo in Washington?
The battle lines have been drawn over whether Trump should make good on his promise to move the American embassy.
Opposing the measure — and winning the battle thus far — is a contingent reportedly consisting of the Arabist cabinet members of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Defense Secretary James Mattis, and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster. They are supported by several bureaucrats in the administration who are pushing for establishment policies in line with previous administration.
The trio reportedly succeed in convincing the president — who has publicly and consistently spoken highly of America’s ally Israel — to hold off on moving the embassy imminently, for fear that it would upset Muslim leaders in the Middle East. But Mattis, McMaster, and Tillerson, who hold the beltway establishment view that it is best not to rock the boat, do not represent the people who elected Donald Trump president.
The prominent figures on the pro-Israel side of the divide, according to Haaretz, are U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, senior adviser Stephen Bannon, and Ambassador to Israel David Friedman.
Bannon, who has been observed as the man in the White House who represents the interests of the president’s base, is heading the effort to convince Trump to fulfil his embassy campaign promise.
Ambassador Haley, who has become a bipartisan favorite due to her fiery presence at the United Nations, has publicly urged that U.S. policy reflects that Jerusalem is part of Israel. She continues to call for the embassy move.
Supporters of the move say it would send a signal to the world that America stands by its allies and recognizes their sovereign territory. Moreover, it would send a message to the world that America is not beholden to blackmail by Islamic regimes. An “America-first” doctrine means America not capitulating to the interests of Arab nations before its own, those in favor of the move argue.
Right now, U.S. policy on Israel is unchanged from that of past administrations. The Trump administration does not even recognize Jerusalem, and the Western Wall within it (which is part of the holiest site in Judaism), as part of the Jewish state.
In less than two weeks, we will know if the president decides to succumb to the Washington foreign policy establishment on Israel, or rather, break free from its narrow-focused stranglehold over Middle East policy.