The issue of moving the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Yerushalayim has become more nuanced and may already be moving to the backburner.
Israeli officials said the issue was barely discussed in the 30-minute phone conversation between President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Sunday night. Diplomats said their understanding was that it was being moved down the agenda, at least for now.
Another said that during the call, Netanyahu had not sought a commitment from Trump on the move or a timeframe for it.
After the statement made by White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer earlier on Sunday that they had “only begun discussing the issue,” expectation for immediate action began to be lowered.
“Sounds more like walking it backwards,” one Israeli official said in a text message. The former spokesman for Israel’s foreign ministry, Yigal Palmor, suggested Spicer’s line was age-old diplomatic code for “not now.”
“This really means: ‘Don’t call us; we’ll call you,'” Palmor said in a posting.
Netanyahu’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
While the Israeli prime minister cannot be seen to oppose the United States moving its embassy to Yerushalayim, there is an awareness that such a move could be destabilizing.
Those who have been reporting on an imminent announcement of the embassy move were undaunted, however. Prior to Spencer’s remark, Israeli reporter Amit Segal had said that it would be announced on Monday. After Spicer’s remark on Sunday, which most took to be a dampening of expectations, Segal moved up her forecast to “already tonight,” Sunday.
Segal argued that it was unprecedented for a White House spokesman to even talk about beginning to relocate the embassy, and rather than a ratcheting down of expectations, it was confirmation that the move is in the works.
Meanwhile, Yerushalayim Mayor Nir Barkat said on Monday that his sources in Washington indicate that the new administration is serious about the move. They are reportedly already looking for a specific site in Yerushalayim for the new embassy building.
Updated Monday, January 23, 2017 at 4:36 pm