Trump Reneges on Promise to Move Embassy to Jerusalem on Eve of Middle East Trip

The U.S. Embassy to Israel is staying right where it is, in Tel Aviv, despite Trump’s pledge to move it. Photo: Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Images

If you are looking for an indication that Donald Trump still thinks he has great presidential things to accomplish, and is not instead hunkering down defensively, this news from Bloomberg immediately before his trip to the Middle East may do the trick:

President Donald Trump has decided not to immediately move the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, a senior White House official said, violating a campaign promise but avoiding a provocation that could drive Palestinians away from peace talks.

Trump conspicuously promised to move the embassy to Jerusalem at an AIPAC event in March of 2016. He reiterated the pledge on the eve of his inauguration, adding that, “You know I’m not a person who breaks promises.” And at the 2017 AIPAC gathering a few weeks ago, Vice-President Mike Pence backed off some but managed to raise expectations again. “After decades of simply talking about it, the president of the United States is giving serious consideration to moving the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem,” Pence said.

Well, not anymore, or at least not imminently. Trump’s hopes of brokering some sort of Israeli-Palestinian peace deal are apparently alive, and he plans to meet with Palestinian National Authority president Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem next week. Putting the embassy move on hold is essential to any diplomacy with the Palestinians.

So Trump, like Bill Clinton and George W. Bush before him, promised to move the embassy in the heat of a presidential campaign and then reneged when things got real. Perhaps this shows that he is not yet in a political bunker where the only thing that matters is satisfying influential donors like Sheldon Adelson or “base” supporters like the conservative evangelicals who favor defiance of Palestinians on Jerusalem out of Islamophobia or end-times prophecy. That would be reassuringly normal.

Trump Reneges on Jerusalem Embassy Before Middle East Trip