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Trump Postpones U.S. Embassy Move To Jerusalem


President Trump says never mind about moving a U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, at least he won't do it now, according to the White House. The embassy to Israel stays in Tel Aviv which has big, symbolic significance. NPR's diplomatic correspondent Michele Kelemen is in our studios. Michele, good morning.


INSKEEP: Would you remind us why the U.S. embassy isn't in Jerusalem, which the Israelis say is their capital?

KELEMEN: Right. Well, the Israelis call it the eternal capital, but Jerusalem is also important to the Palestinians. And they would like the eastern part of it, the predominantly Arab part of the city to become a capital of their future state. So...

INSKEEP: Oh, and that's the part of Jerusalem that Israelis captured in a war in 1967.

KELEMEN: That's right. And so the fate of Jerusalem has become known as a final status issue in this peace process between Israelis and Palestinians.

INSKEEP: Well, President Trump said during the campaign he was going to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem. What is he saying now?

KELEMEN: Well, he's followed suit along with what previous presidents have done, and he's signed a waiver to a law passed by Congress in the mid-1990s that would have required the embassy to move. He's waived it for the next six months. That's what presidents since Bill Clinton have done every six months...

INSKEEP: Even though other presidents have also promised during their campaigns that they would move the embassy.

KELEMEN: That's right.

INSKEEP: Obviously, it was very convenient for Congress to vote to move the embassy, but nobody actually does it. Why is that? What prevents - what are the political realities of doing that, moving the embassy?

KELEMEN: Well, he did hear from a lot of Arab countries. There's concern that this would inflame tensions in the Arab world. There's also a sense that Israel wasn't really pushing very hard for this at the moment.

And so what the White House is saying that is - that this decision to sign this waiver should not be seen as a retreat from the president's strong support for Israel. They also say that he made this decision to - in the words of this statement - maximize the chances of successfully negotiating a deal between Israelis and Palestinians.

INSKEEP: Why would the Israelis not push for this, more trouble than it's worth?

KELEMEN: For the moment, I guess. I mean, but we'll see what they do heading forward.

INSKEEP: And there was some personal intervention with the president, right? Wasn't it thought that Jordan's king, for example, had brought this up and warned the president not to do this?

KELEMEN: Several Arab leaders have done that.

INSKEEP: OK. Michele, thanks very much. Really appreciate it.


INSKEEP: And, again, the news the White House says that for now, President Trump is not moving the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Michele Kelemen has been with NPR for two decades, starting as NPR's Moscow bureau chief and now covering the State Department and Washington's diplomatic corps. Her reports can be heard on all NPR News programs, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered.