President Donald Trump, or his people, were clearly trying very hard over this past weekend to douse the flames ignited across the Middle East by US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson sought to dampen the enthusiasm of Israeli celebrations following the Dec. 6 announcement and to calm Arab protests against the United States and Israel. He tried to make clear that the status of the contested city would only be determined within the framework of a permanent arrangement between Israel and the Palestinians. Trump’s ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, was also mobilized to put out the fires. Addressing the UN Security Council on Dec. 8, she noted that Trump had not taken a stand on Jerusalem’s boundaries, adding that the issue of sovereignty over the city “is still to be decided on by Israelis and Palestinian in negotiations.”
Tillerson promised that the inauguration of the US Embassy in Jerusalem was at least two years away. He cited unspecified “logistical” considerations as the reason for this delay, although those in the know say there is nothing preventing the embassy in Tel Aviv from calling in the movers tomorrow. Martin Indyk, a former US ambassador to Israel, tweeted last week that a recently completed US consular facility in West Jerusalem could fit the bill and house relocated embassy staff.