Vice President Pence Returns Embassy Move to the Limelight
Speaking at a celebration marking 70 years since the United Nations vote to create the Jewish state of Israel, US Vice President Michael Pence returned the issue of moving the American embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem to the front burner. The promise to make the move featured prominently in the Trump campaign rhetoric as the candidate vowed to make it a priority once he was elected. Israel is the only nation whose designated capital is not respected as such because the Arab world denies Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem – a policy shared by the United States – and deems it to be the capital of an eventual Palestinian state. Former presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush also promised during their campaigns to move the embassy but it never happened, mostly because of State Department warnings of potential violent reactions if it were to happen. Asked during the campaign how he would handle the pressure from the professional diplomats, now-Ambassador David Friedman took a cue from President’s television program at one rally and said that a “President” Trump would “fire” the ones who insisted it should not happen. But the new president’s failure to honor his campaign pledge did not sit lightly with the pro-Israel world. And while some believed the reaction an embassy move might have is not worth what it would do to the prospects for reaching an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, most let the issue rest during the first year of the Trump presidency. But when the issue has surfaced, it has often been the Veep who raised it. Now, on Tuesday, Pence again focused attention to the question of moving the embassy to Israel’s capital, telling his audience that the president is weighing the different elements of making the move and that it is a question of “when, not if” it will happen.