Trump delays move of US embassy in Israel

 US President Donald Trump (left) and Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after a press conference prior to an official dinner in Jerusalem on May 22, 2017.
US President Donald Trump (left) and Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after a press conference prior to an official dinner in Jerusalem on May 22, 2017.PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON •President Donald Trump has postponed moving the United States embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, avoiding a provocative step as he tries to revive the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who welcomed the US leader to the city last week, expressed disappointment at the delay but made it clear he still values Mr Trump's support.

Palestinian leaders were relieved by a decision that they said "gives peace a chance", and a spokesman for United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he hoped the "wise decision" would help revive the peace process.

On the campaign trail, Mr Trump repeatedly pledged that he would move the embassy from Tel Aviv to the city claimed as capital by both Israel and its Palestinian neighbours, and he appointed a US ambassador who shares this goal.

But since coming to office in January, Mr Trump has met Israeli and Palestinian leaders both in Washington and in a visit to the region last week, and has committed himself to seeking a long-elusive final peace deal between the two sides.

The US Congress passed a law in 1995 making it US policy to move the embassy to Jerusalem, symbolically endorsing Israel's claim on the city as its capital. But the law also allowed each president to issue and renew a six-month waiver on carrying out the move.

On Thursday, the stay came up for renewal for the first time on Mr Trump's watch, and he followed the example of his predecessors Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama in instructing his secretary of state to hold off on the move.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 03, 2017, with the headline 'Trump delays move of US embassy in Israel'. Print Edition | Subscribe