U.S. ends waivers of Jerusalem Embassy Act after terms fulfilled

President Trump in December 2017 recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital and in May 2018 followed through on his campaign promise to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

May 9, 2019 18:43
3 minute read.
U.S. Secretary of State Pompeo listens during the news conference in Reykjavik

U.S. Secretary of State Pompeo listens during the news conference in Reykjavik. (photo credit: ASGEIR ASGEIRSSON/REUTERS)


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No more waivers will be granted to the 1995 Jerusalem Embassy Act, because its terms have been fulfilled and the process of relocating the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Israel’s capital has been completed, the US announced on Wednesday.

“I am pleased to report that I have provided my determination to Congress that the relevant elements of the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 have been addressed. Accordingly, no further presidential waiver of the funding restriction under the act is necessary,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday.

He made his announcement just as Israel prepared to celebrate its 71st anniversary.

Both Pompeo and US Ambassador David Friedman tweeted about the end of what had almost become a ritual, in which twice a year the US president would waive the act, which mandated the relocation of the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

“Twenty-three years ago, Congress overwhelmingly voted in support of moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem. Successive administrations refused to move the embassy, and instead exercised presidential waivers to avoid the act’s restrictions,” Pompeo said in a statement by his office.

The US officially relocated its embassy to Jerusalem last year, but the process had not been completed. As a result, the act was still waived.

“Now, as we near the first anniversary of that momentous event,” such a waiver is no longer necessary, Pompeo said. “The Jerusalem Embassy Act called on the Department of State to open in Jerusalem not just the offices of the US diplomatic mission to Israel, but also a chief of mission residence for our ambassador to Israel. In March 2019, in consultation with the government of Israel, we established a chief of mission residence in Jerusalem. I have therefore determined that the US Embassy in Jerusalem, including the chief of mission residence, is officially open, consistent with the act. On December 6, 2017, the president boldly decided to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and instructed the Department of State to relocate the US Embassy to Jerusalem. We proudly continue to implement that decision today.”

US President Donald Trump first announced US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December 2017. At the time he clarified that his declaration was a principled one and did not refer to the question of whether Israel had sovereignty over the entire city, or just a portion of it.

The Palestinians hold that east Jerusalem, all areas of the city over the pre-1967 lines, are designed for the capital of its future state.

In 2017 Trump said: “We are not taking a position on any final-status issues, including the specific boundaries of the Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem, or the resolution of contested borders. Those questions are up to the parties involved.”

The 1995 Jerusalem Embassy Act, which was approved by both the House of Representatives and the Senate, clearly states that the US position on the matter is that Jerusalem is Israel’s undivided capital.

The act states: “Jerusalem should remain an undivided city in which the rights of every ethnic and religious group are protected; Jerusalem should be recognized as the capital of the State of Israel; and the United States Embassy in Israel should be established in Jerusalem no later than May 31, 1999.”

A US official said Wednesday, “We have clearly recognized the reality that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital and seat of government. As the president has stated, the final boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem remain to be decided through negotiations.”

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