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Trump Administration Studying US Embassy Move to Jerusalem

White House spokesman Sean Spicer holds a press briefing at the White House in Washington, D.C., Jan. 23, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque.
Trump Administration Studying US Embassy Move to Jerusalem
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United States officials are studying a possible move of the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

That information came this week from Sean Spicer, the spokesman for new President Donald Trump.

Although Trump has said he wants to move the embassy to Jerusalem, Spicer said a final decision has not been made.

“If it was already a decision, then we wouldn’t be going through a process,” the presidential spokesman told reporters on Monday.

Israeli officials have argued that the embassy belongs in Jerusalem because it is the country’s capital. But the Palestinian Authority hopes to make East Jerusalem as its capital in a future Palestinian state. Israel captured east Jerusalem in the 1967 Middle East war.

Palestinian officials oppose any effort to move the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, as do many countries.

The Islamic militant group Hamas warned on Tuesday that moving the embassy to Jerusalem could result in violence. In a statement, Hamas said such a move would “open a new chapter of conflict” and “add fuel to the fire.”

New Israeli Settlements Announced

On Tuesday, Israel announced approval of 2,500 new homes for settlers in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said the new settlement homes are “in response to housing needs." The majority of the housing, he said, will be built in areas where most Israeli settlers now live.

Israel Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman attends cabinet meeting on Jan. 8, 2017.
Israel Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman attends cabinet meeting on Jan. 8, 2017.

Nabil Abu Rdeneh works for the Palestinian Authority and speaks for its president, Mahmoud Abbas. He said the new housing "disregards" international opposition to the settlements. He called on world leaders to take a “real and serious position" against Israel.

Pope Francis meets with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Jan. 14, 2017.
Pope Francis meets with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Jan. 14, 2017.

In one of its final acts, the Obama administration did not use its veto to block a resolution in the United Nations Security Council. The resolution urged Israel to stop building new housing settlements. The council’s members passed the measure by a vote of 14 to nothing.

Trump criticized the vote in a comment on social media. He wrote on Twitter: “The United Nations has such great potential but right now it is just a club for people to get together, talk and have a good time. So sad!”

Money Released for Palestinian Authority

On Monday, the Associated Press and other news media reported that the Obama administration released $221 million to the Palestinian Authority last week. Some members of Congress had been blocking the release. They were unhappy with the Palestinian Authority seeking to join international organizations. They noted that membership is normally reserved for countries.

Israeli and Palestinian representatives have spent years talking about a possible two-state agreement. Under the plan, the Palestinians would be given statehood in return for recognizing Israel’s right to exist. But those negotiations resulted in failure. Many U.S. administrations tried and failed to bring the two sides together. That includes the Obama administration.

John Kerry served as President Barack Obama’s Secretary of State. Kerry said last month that increased settlements in Jerusalem made a peace agreement difficult.

“Now, one thing we do know: if Israel goes down the one-state path, it will never have true peace with the rest of the Arab world, and I can say that with certainty,” he said in a speech last month.

At the time, Trump criticized Kerry’s speech.

“We cannot continue to let Israel be treated with such total disdain and disrespect,” Trump said on Twitter. “They used to have a great friend in the U.S., but not anymore.” He added: “January 20th is fast approaching.”

Trump named lawyer David Friedman as the new U.S. ambassador to Israel. Friedman has been a strong supporter of Israel’s settlements and moving the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

On Sunday, Trump spoke by telephone with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. They agreed to meet in Washington early next month.

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat said he hopes the Trump administration will be more supportive of settlements than the Obama administration.

I’m Dorothy Gundy.

Robert Berger reported on this story for Bruce Alpert adapted this story for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

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Words in This Story

chapter - n. period of time that is very different from the period of time before it

disregard - v. to ignore something

potential - n. capable of becoming real

certainty - n. the state of being or feeling sure about something

disdain - n. a feeling of strong dislike or disapproval of someone or something you think does not deserve respect

reservev. to set or have set aside