On Wednesday, President Trump directed the State Department to begin the process of moving the American embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. While this news is cause for widespread celebration in the pro-Israel community, the battle to relocate the American embassy is far from over.
The State Department has been, for quite some time, the most anti-Israel body in the U.S. government. It will likely lead the resistance against President Trump’s decision to start the process of moving the embassy.
It appears that the bureaucratic branch has calculated that it can stonewall the president’s mandate until he leaves office.
In a background briefing Tuesday evening, officials predicted that the process to move the embassy would take “years,” perhaps extending well beyond President Trump’s first term.
“As a practical matter, no embassy is constructed today anywhere in the world shorter than three or four years,” an administration official told reporters.
This expectation gives the virulently anti-Israel hierarchy in the State Department the opening they need to attempt to run out the clock on the president’s pro-Israel order.
In the first year of the Trump presidency under Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the State Department remains an anti-Israel institution entrenched in its ways, even as the president continues to institute pro-Israel initiatives.
Under Secretary Tillerson, the State Department continues to be loaded with anti-Israel zealots from the past administration. These include Michael Ratney, an apprentice to former Secretary of State John Kerry. As Jerusalem consul, Ratney oversaw grants to One Voice, a leftist political group that President Obama allegedly weaponized in an attempt to unseat Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
In May, a State Department official told Conservative Review that “no state has sovereignty over the city of Jerusalem.”
In June, the State Department released its annual “County Reports on Terrorism” memo, which blamed Israel for causing Palestinian terrorism. Israel was also to blame for the lack of peace between the two sides, the report stated, pointing to a “lack of hope” as the key “driver” for Palestinian violence. Following the report’s publication, Mort Klein, who heads the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA), called on Tillerson to resign.
And in August, State Department officials met with leaders of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), a Hamas-tied Muslim Brotherhood front group, to discuss the status of Jerusalem.
Instead of standing by America’s closest Middle East ally, the State Department under Tillerson has continued to refuse to assign blame for Palestinian terrorism against innocent Israelis. “Violence is not the answer to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” reads a July tweet posted by State, following a brutal Palestinian mass murder of a Jewish family.
Not only is the bureaucracy slanted against Israel, Tillerson himself has promoted anti-Israel policies.
Known for his Arabist worldview, he has declared that Tel Aviv, not Jerusalem, is the “home of Judaism.” Additionally, he has consistently refused to recognize that Israel even has a claim to its capital of Jerusalem. From time to time, he refers to a nonexistent “Palestine,” instead of properly stating that there are Palestinian territories, not an independent state.
According to Haaretz, Tillerson has privately lobbied the president to not move the embassy. Moreover, he has essentially blackmailed Israel, using the embassy move as a bargaining chip for a “peace initiative.”
As long as Rex Tillerson remains secretary of state and prominent Obama holdovers remain in top State Department posts, we can expect that State will attempt to defy the president and do everything in its power to stop the embassy move. If President Trump wants success in his order to move the embassy to Jerusalem, he should clean house at State and install people who will execute his mandate.
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