President-elect Donald Trump considers moving the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv a “very big priority,” senior adviser Kellyanne Conway said in a radio interview Monday, describing a step that would represent a major reversal of longstanding U.S. policy.
Both Israel and the Palestinians have claims to the contested city, and the U.S. has held that Jerusalem’s final status should be the subject of broader international negotiations aimed at resolving the long-simmering dispute.
“He made that very clear during the campaign. And as president-elect I’ve heard him repeat it several times, privately if not publicly,” Ms. Conway said in an interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt. “It’s something that our friend in Israel, a great friend in the Middle East, Israel, would appreciate and something that a lot of Jewish Americans also have expressed their preference for.”
Maen Rashid Areikat, the chief representative of the Palestine Liberation Organization in the U.S., said the Palestinians hope Mr. Trump’s administration will adhere to the longstanding U.S. position of keeping the embassy in Tel Aviv. He said moving the embassy would make it more difficult to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian issue.
Congress has bristled at the executive branch’s refusal to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and in 1995 passed legislation requiring that the U.S. embassy be relocated there.
But the 1995 Jerusalem Embassy act allows the president to waive that order for six month periods for national security reasons, which presidents from both parties have consistently done since the law took effect.
“It’s a great move, it’s an easy thing for him to do based on how much he talked about that I think, in the debates, on the stump why it’s important to do,” Ms. Conway said, adding that such a move was also important to Evangelical Christians.
“Evangelical Christians always have Israel on the top of their list,” she said.
Mr. Trump pledged repeatedly on the campaign trail to move the embassy. However, former presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush made similar comments as candidates that went unfulfilled.