WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump is keeping the U.S. embassy in Israel in Tel Aviv, even while promising to eventually move it to Jerusalem.
Trump, in his long campaign for the presidency, vowed to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem to concur with the Israeli government's long-standing preference. But the issue is caught in the unending debate over the creation of separate Jewish and Palestinian states, with both the Israelis and Palestinians claiming Jerusalem as their capitals.
The White House said Thursday that Trump's decision to keep the embassy in Tel Aviv, where most other foreign governments also have their diplomatic missions, should not be considered "in any way a retreat from the president's strong support for Israel and for the United States-Israel alliance."
The White House statement said Trump made the choice "to maximize the chances of successfully negotiating a deal between Israel and the Palestinians."
"As he has repeatedly stated his intention to move the embassy," White House officials said, "the question is not if that move happens, but only when."
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he was disappointed with Trump's decision. However, Netanyahu said he hopes the U.S. embassy will eventually move to Jerusalem and that he appreciates the U.S. president's expression of friendship.
"Israel's consistent position is that the American embassy, like the embassies of all countries with whom we have diplomatic relations, should be in Jerusalem, our eternal capital," Netanyahu said.