Vice President Mike Pence said Tuesday in Queens that President Donald Trump is “actively considering when and how” to move the American embassy in Israel to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, a possibility a top Palestinian official has said would be “a declaration of war against Muslims.”
Since taking office, Trump has postponed his campaign pledge to relocate the embassy as Israel has long demanded. But Pence said at the Queens Museum in Corona, “As we speak, President Donald Trump is actively considering when and how to move the American embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.”
In June, Trump followed past presidents by signing a waiver on a 1995 law requiring that the embassy be moved to Jerusalem by 1999. The White House said Trump made the decision “to maximize the chances of successfully negotiating a deal between Israel and the Palestinians.” Last month, Trump told a show hosted by fellow Republican Mike Huckabee that the U.S. would hold off on the move.
The embassy’s location — long in Tel Aviv instead of Jerusalem, the Jewish state’s declared capital — has been a source of tension between Israel and the United States for decades, and Trump in 2016 promised a relocation. Jerusalem is claimed as a capital by Jews and Palestinians. Moving the embassy would all but declare the city to be Israeli territory.
The week of Trump’s inauguration, Palestinian Fatah Central Committee member Jibril Rajoub, a top official in the Palestinian government, told The Times of Israel that the embassy relocation would be “a declaration of war against Muslims” that carried “consequences.”
Pence spoke Tuesday for about 15 minutes at the museum to commemorate the 70th anniversary — Nov. 29, 1947 — of the United Nations General Assembly vote for a resolution to partition what was then the British territory of Palestine and create the Jewish state.
The UN’s current headquarters in Manhattan wasn’t completed until 1952, and at the time the General Assembly met in the hall that now houses the museum.
After the 1947 vote, the Arab states’ delegation opposed the resolution, calling it “invalid” and beyond the scope of the UN’s charter. The Egyptian delegate to the UN predicted bloodshed.
Pence, who did not detail the timeline for moving the embassy, criticized the Iran nuclear deal struck by former president Barack Obama, and called the modern-day UN “a forum for invective, and a forum for anti-Semitism and hatred.”
He said, “The days of Israel-bashing at the United Nations are over.”
“Our two nations stand together to confront any who dare to threaten us, most especially the menace of radical Islamic terror,” Pence said. Obama and his predecessor, George W. Bush, avoided the phrase as incendiary to the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims.
Tuesday’s commemoration initially was canceled in August when the city-funded museum backed out on a deal to rent the space, Israel’s UN ambassador, Danny Danon, said at the time. Danon said then that the museum board said the event was a “political” event banned by museum rules, though it later relented amid a tabloid uproar.
Asked in a brief interview with Newsday before Pence’s remarks Tuesday whether Israel was disappointed with Trump’s unkempt embassy promise, Danon said, “We believe that it will happen soon.”