President Barack Obama ordered Secretary of State John Kerry not to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, a waiver of the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 that establishes U.S. policy to move the embassy to the city Israelis consider their capital.
The presidential determination Tuesday is consistent with what both the Clinton and Bush administrations did to delay the move amid efforts to achieve a two-state solution in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“Pursuant to the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, including section 7(a) of the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 (Public Law 104-45)(the "Act"), I hereby determine that it is necessary, in order to protect the national security interests of the United States, to suspend for a period of 6 months the limitations set forth in sections 3(b) and 7(b) of the Act,” Obama said in the memo to Kerry.
White House officials said they were not in a position at this time to safely move the embassy, and that such a move could have an inflammatory and destabilizing effect on the region, IRN-USA Radio News reported.
The U.S. Embassy will remain in Tel Aviv, though the State Department does have a consulate in Jerusalem.
The Jerusalem Embassy Act was passed in 1995 with overwhelming support in the House and Senate, and called for the relocation to take place no later than fiscal year 1999. It also called for Jerusalem to remain undivided and to be recognized as the capital of Israel. From Oct. 1, 1998 forward, presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama have issued six-month delays.
The issue of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel played into the 2012 presidential campaign when a reporter asked White House press secretary Jay Carney to name the capital and Carney refused to do so. Obama's opponent, Republican Mitt Romney, jumped in to state that his administration would recognize Jerusalem as the capital.