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Israel’s Ambassador to US Weighs-in on Issue of Moving Embassy

As the efficacy of moving the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Israel grows into a major point of contention surrounding the incoming administration, Israeli Ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer used the Washington embassy’s annual Chanukah party to encourage the President-elect to go ahead with the move. Media who have taken note of the close relationship between Dermer and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu see the ambassador’s comments as falling barely short of being official policy. Like Trump, past presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush also promised to move the embassy as one of their first acts after taking office but never did so after the State Department explained the repercussions the move would cause. While many dismiss the Trump promise to do so as campaign rhetoric that will never see the light of day, others argue that the president-elect might very well be the one to finally do so given the willingness he has shown to disregard political conventional wisdoms. In fact, high ranking Trump officials such as Kellyanne Conway and National Security Adviser-designate Michael Flynn have re-affirmed Trump’s intention to make the move. Refusal by the United States to recognize Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem arguing it’s an issue that must be settled through negotiations – the primary reason given for opening the embassy in Tel Aviv rather than the nation’s self-declared capital — has long rankled many Israelis and American supporters of the Jewish state. Legislation that required the embassy to be moved was passed with bipartisan support in 1995, but included a waiver provision that allows the president to override the law every six months by declaring that it’s a matter of national security that the embassy not be relocated. Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama have all signed the declarations every six months. The move would be the death knell for peace prospects according to Palestinian leaders, an assessment with which many Israelis and Jewish leaders agree. The issue has moved to center stage of transition coverage largely because the nominee to be US ambassador to Israel David Friedman reiterated President-elect Trump’s promises during the campaign and since the election, arousing passionate reactions for and against the promised actions. Friedman has become the target of a broad coalition of Jewish organizations determined to prevent confirmation by the Senate.