Tomorrow, President Trump is required by law to either announce the movement of the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem or to issue a waiver to the law requiring the move. He will miss that deadline. What he will do is take the first tentative step in that direction in an announcement scheduled for next week in which he will announce the US recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. This is how the AP says it will roll out:
Trump is likely to issue a waiver on moving the embassy by Monday, officials said, though they cautioned that the president could always decide otherwise.
The White House also is considering a possible presidential speech or statement on Jerusalem by Wednesday, according to the officials and an outside administration adviser. Another possibility involves Vice President Mike Pence, who is set to travel to Israel in mid-December, making the Jerusalem announcement during his trip, one official said. Pence said Tuesday that Trump is “actively considering when and how” to move the embassy.
There is resistance, within the administration and without, to any change of the status quo however Trump’s advisers say he sees the promise to move the embassy as one that he must fulfill.
At Monday’s White House meeting, Defense Secretary James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made the case that moving the embassy in Israel would pose a grave danger to American diplomats and troops stationed in the Middle East and Muslim nations, the U.S. officials said.
King Abdullah II, who met Pence and Tillerson this week in Washington, made the same argument, telling the vice president and others that any change to the embassy in the absence of an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal would create unrest and instability throughout the region and drive up anti-American sentiment, according to the officials.
After a lengthy back and forth at the White House meeting, Trump and his inner circle appeared to accept those concerns but insisted that the president had to demonstrate his stated commitment to move the embassy, the officials said. The discussion then turned toward waiving the embassy move for another six months but combining it with recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s eternal capital, which the Israelis have long sought.
As Stonewall Jackson said, “Never take counsel of your fears.” The Saudis have come down hard on Hamas, who has been flirting with Hezbollah, and it is rumored the heir apparent to the throne, Mohammad bin Salman, has visited Israel and the threat posed by Iran to Saudi Arabia and its allies make it very likely to lean on the Palestinians to not overreact to any announcement as Israel is a de facto member of Saudi Arabia’s anti-Iran coalition.
This is a good interim step. It will let us judge the reaction in the region. And Trump has to sign this waiver every six months so it will be revisited.