Spicer: Still no decision on US embassy waiver as deadline looms

Thursday deadline looming; "When the president has a decision to make, we'll let you know."

May 31, 2017 01:16
1 minute read.
Press Secretary Sean Spicer

White House Press Secretary and Communications Director Sean Spicer holds the daily press briefing at the White House in Washington. (photo credit: REUTERS)

With the June 1 deadline looming, US President Donald Trump has still not made a final decision to sign a waiver overriding a 1995 law requiring the US embassy to be moved to Jerusalem, according to White House press secretary Sean Spicer.

"When the president has a decision to make, we'll let you know," responded Spicer to a reporter's question during Tuesday afternoon's White House press briefing.

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Ahead of Trump's recent Israel visit, a senior administration official revealed that the president would not use his trip to announce plans to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, although he still ultimately wants to take that step. Trump had pledged to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem during his successful 2016 presidential election campaign.

Twice a year for the past nineteen years, presidents have issued a “suspension of limitations” set forth by specific provisions of the Jerusalem Embassy Act– a waiver that allows them to delay moving the US Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem “in order to protect the national security interests of the United States.”

Former president Barack Obama signed the final waiver of his presidency in December 2016.

These waivers have become routine administrative procedure, as presidents from both parties have long found agreement against moving the embassy before Israelis and Palestinians reach a comprehensive and lasting peace agreement.

Since the unification of Jerusalem under Israeli control 50 years ago, American leaders have feared that moving the embassy would compromise the nation’s broader strategic goals in the region, costing them more abroad than the move would be politically worth at home.

And so, once every December and June since 1998, the White House has exercised its authority to waive an appropriations requirement that would suspend 50% of the State Department’s buildings maintenance budget until the secretary of state verifies he has opened a Jerusalem embassy.

In past years, the White House has not treated the first day of June or December as a sacrosanct deadline – the matter was dealt with on the second day of June in 2014, and the third in 2015.

Michael Wilner contributed to this report.

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