President Donald Trump may travel to Israel for the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem, which is slated to take place in May.
“I may. I may,” Trump said on Monday as he welcomed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the Oval Office. “They have started, as you know, construction and I may.”
“We’re looking at coming,” Trump added. “If I can, I will.”
The Trump administration has repeatedly shifted its timeline for moving the US embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, which Trump announced in December as he recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
The administration first said it would take years to move the US embassy and said it had rejected the idea of opening a temporary US embassy in Jerusalem. But now, it appears the administration is intent on doing just that, announcing plans last month to designate a US consular facility in Jerusalem as the US embassy while waiting for the years-long process of building a new embassy there.
But Trump glossed over the distinction Monday, saying the US would only spend $250,000 to build the new embassy versus a $1 billion proposal he said he was recently presented.
After opening the embassy in May, the US will build out additional office space at the consular facility by the end of 2019. But that space, too, will be temporary as the US works to identify a site and build a permanent embassy in Jerusalem.
Trump touted his decision on recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, noting that previous presidents have promised to do so but never acted. Trump said “it’s something that’s very much appreciated in Israel.”
The decision, though, has stalled the US-led peace process, causing uproar in the Arab world and leading Palestinian leaders to reject a US role in mediating a resolution to the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
But Trump projected optimism about the direction of the peace process, saying he believes “we have a very good chance” of success. He signaled that Palestinians are “wanting to come back to the table very badly,” though there is no public indication that that is the case.