WASHINGTON (JTA) — The Trump administration has yet to decide on when — or possibly even whether — to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, its spokesman said.
On Monday, a sequence of answers by Sean Spicer in his first Q&A with reporters as White House spokesman suggested that President Donald Trump may retreat from his election campaign pledge to move the embassy.
“There’s no decision,” Spicer said when he was asked about whether the administration had considered the strategic consequences of a move. “We’re at the very early stages of that decision-making process.”
Later, asked whether Trump would order the move through executive action, Spicer said: “It’s very early in this process. We’re at the beginning stages of this decision-making process and his team will continue to consult with stakeholders there.”
Finally, a third reporter asked Spicer whether he meant there was no decision yet, not just on when but whether to move the embassy.
“If it was already a decision, we wouldn’t be going through the process,” Spicer said.
Trump said while he campaigned and reportedly as recently as last week that he planned to move the embassy from Tel Aviv, and Spicer said last week that there would be an announcement “soon.”
The Palestinian leadership has said in recent days that an embassy move could bury any vestiges of the peace process, which Trump has said he would like to advance. MSNBC reported Monday that Trump believes that advancing peace is a greater priority than moving the embassy. Jordan, a close U.S. ally, has also warned that the move could destabilize the region.
Congress in 1995 passed a law mandating a move to Jerusalem, but allowed presidents to waive it every six months for national security reasons; successive presidents have done so. Trump would need to issue a waiver by the end of May if he chooses not to move the embassy.