Trump signs waiver to keep US Embassy in Tel Aviv

The Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority (PA) has welcomed a decision by U.S. President Donald Trump to keep the U.S. embassy in Israel in the city of Tel Aviv instead of relocating it to Jerusalem.

Despite campaign promises to move the embassy to Jerusalem, Trump signed a waiver to keep the embassy in Tel Aviv.

In a statement, the White House said Trump signed the waiver to "maximize the chances of successfully negotiating a deal between Israel and the Palestinians".

Foreign countries now have their embassies in the Israeli commercial capital Tel Aviv since they do not recognise Israel's unilateral claim of control over all of Jerusalem.

In 1995, the U.S. Congress approved the Embassy Act in Jerusalem, which recognizes the city as the capital of Israel.

Following in the footsteps of past presidents, Trump came to the conclusion that moving the embassy outside the context of a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians might exacerbate the conflict, White House officials said. And Trump's statement said it's not a matter of if he'll move the embassy but when.

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While campaigning, Trump had promised to move the embassy and said on his first day in office that it would show unwavering USA support for Israel. He has since, however, stalled on his pledge.

In a statement, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said Thursday that it believes all embassies should be in what it called Israel's "eternal capital".

Trump has yet to make his decision official but is required by law to act by Friday, according to one US official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Like every other country, the United States maintains its embassy in Tel Aviv.

"Fifty years ago, the liberation of Jerusalem during the Six Day War reunited the Jewish people with their historic capital city".

The Palestinians claim east Jerusalem as their capital. Under pressure from Arab leaders and others, Trump followed the lead of past presidents of both parties who have waived the law in six-month stretches. "We look forward to continuing to work with the Trump Administration to strengthen the US-Israel alliance and defeat the radical Islamic terrorists that threaten both our nations".

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The president began backing away from moving the embassy when King Abdullah II of Jordan flew to Washington, D.C., to explain to the White House why the move might not be such a good idea, the Times reported.

The U.S. says its policy on Jerusalem hasn't changed and that Jerusalem's status must be negotiated between Israelis and Palestinians.

It may be a little hard to defend this change for Trump, who openly criticized past presidents of both parties for waivers and campaigned on being a non-politician who keeps his promises. But after he took office in January, the issue lost momentum as he met Arab leaders who warned it would be hard to rejuvenate long-stalled peace efforts unless he acted as a fair mediator.

Unless Trump signs a waiver as did Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama before midnight, the decision to make the historic move will have been made by non-action.

Nabil Abu Rudeineh, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' spokesman, told Arab News on Thursday that the decision was "an important positive step and would boost chances to achieve peace". If he choose to withdraw, the move is like to alienate many longtime American allies in Europe and Asia, a report by the New York Times said.

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