Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday gently rebuked President Trump's decision not to move the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.
"Though Israel is disappointed that the embassy will not move at this time, we appreciate today's expression of President Trump's friendship to Israel and his commitment to moving the embassy in the future," Netanyahu said Thursday.
Trump promised to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a controversial move given the Palestinian Authority's ambition to have the capital of a future Palestinian state in East Jerusalem. That move seemed especially likely in the wake of then-President Barack Obama's decision to allow the United Nations Security Council to pass a resolution condemning Israeli settlement construction in disputed areas. But President Trump, who recently restarted Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, decided not to make a move at this time.
"President Trump made this decision to maximize the chances of successfully negotiating a deal between Israel and the Palestinians, fulfilling his solemn obligation to defend America's national security interests," White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Thursday. "But, as he has repeatedly stated his intention to move the embassy, the question is not if that move happens, but only when."
Netanyahu's team said the decision is actually counterproductive to peace. "Maintaining embassies outside the capital drives peace farther away by helping keep alive the Palestinian fantasy that the Jewish people and the Jewish state have no connection to Jerusalem," he said.
Trump's delay is in line with the decisions of every president since President Bill Clinton, who invoked a waiver in the law requiring the movement of the embassy in order to delay the relocation. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., faulted Trump for not carrying out the move.
"As someone who believes that Jerusalem is the undivided capital of Israel, I am deeply disappointed in President Trump's decision," Schumer said. "Will those who criticized President Obama for not moving the Embassy make their voices just as loud and just as strong when it comes to President Trump's failure to move the embassy?"
Republican lawmakers proposed legislation in January to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, in support of Trump's expected embassy move. His decision to delay the relocation drew some criticism from his own side of the aisle.
"Israel is the only nation in the world where an American embassy is not located in its chosen capital city," said Florida Rep. Ron DeSantis, a founding member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus. "It is long past time that we rectify this error and locate our embassy in Jerusalem and it is deeply disappointing that the president has decided not to do so."