President Donald Trump declared on December 6, 2017, that the U.S. Department of State should begin a process of moving the United States embassy to Jerusalem, Israel’s capital.
Some call President Trump’s declaration a governmental decision. Regardless of how anyone parses his statement, President Trump has submitted waivers of the 1995 U.S. law that mandates moving the embassy to Jerusalem and recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. This law, passed by Congress in 1995, is the “Jerusalem Embassy Relocation Implementation Act of 1995” (Public Law No: 104-45 *). During a waiver period, the State Department doesn’t have to present a progress report to Congress. Every six months since 1995 or so, Presidents have signed this waiver, thereby keeping the embassy in Tel Aviv. Waivers are based on protecting the national security interests of the United States.
President Trump’s declaration coincides with a belated report to Congress. (The report was due on December 4th. No one is sweating the forty-eight hours.)
For the near future (roughly two years), the U.S. State Department doesn’t anticipate any practical changes.
Essentially, President Trump’s statement is political posturing and even pandering. The U.S. has already conducted official business in Jerusalem in “de facto recognition of its status as the capital of Israel.”
Congress allocates funds to the State Department’s account “Acquisition and Maintenance of Buildings Abroad.” From these funds, the State Department already built a new campus for its Consulate General of Jerusalem – an independent mission – which opened in 2009. The State Department has no intention even to look for land for a new embassy yet alone engage architects, engineers, or begin any other steps for construction.
* See a PDF version of this act as printed by the Public Law No: 104-45.
The Congressional bill became Public Law No: 104-45 without being signed by President Bill Clinton and without being returned to Congress.