White House: Trump administration in ‘beginning stages’ of discussing embassy move

Marcy Oster

(JTA) — The Trump administration is in the “beginning stages” of discussing whether to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

“We are at the very beginning stages of even discussing this subject,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer said on Sunday in a statement, according to Reuters.

The statement came hours before President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were scheduled to have a phone conversation.

Spicer said in a briefing call with reporters at the end of last week that an announcement on the embassy move would be “coming soon.”

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Trump told an Israeli reporter on Tuesday in Washington that he will move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem. Israel Hayom reporter Boaz Bismuth reported that during a conversation with Trump, he asked the president elect if he remembered telling him in a previous interview that he would move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem and recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

He reported that Trump replied: “Of course I remember what I told you about Jerusalem. Of course I didn’t forget. And you know I’m not a person who breaks promises.”

Kellyanne Conway, a top Trump adviser, told conservative talk radio host Hugh Hewitt during a show in December that moving the embassy was a “big priority” for Trump.

“It is something that our friend in Israel, a great friend in the Middle East, would appreciate and something that a lot of Jewish Americans have expressed their preference for,” Conway said. “It is a great move. It is an easy move to do based on how much he talked about that in the debates and in the sound bites.”

The nominee for U.S. Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, has reportedly said in private conversations that he will “work and live in Jerusalem,” Ynet reported. The official ambassador’s residence is located in Herzliya. Friedman owns an apartment in the Talbiyeh neighborhood of Jerusalem, which he reportedly visits several times a year.

Friedman is expected to arrive in Israel at the end of February and take up his job as ambassador. He has not yet been confirmed by the Senate.

Congress recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in 1995, and at that time passed a law mandating the move that included a presidential waiver that lapses every six months, that allows the president to delay the move for national security reasons.