A new report from Axios claims that one of President Trump’s biggest donors, Las Vegas casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, is unhappy about comments made by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on NBC’s “Meet the Press” this weekend. Asked if President Trump intended to follow through with his promise to move the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, Tillerson said the re-location would be contingent on the progress of peace talks.
“Well, the president, I think rightly, has taken a very deliberative approach to understanding the issue itself, listening to input from all interested parties in the region, and understanding, in the context of a peace initiative, what impact would such a move have,” Tillerson said Sunday. “The president has recently expressed his view that he wants to put a lot of effort into seeing if we cannot advance a peace initiative between Israel and Palestine. And so, I think in large measure the president is being very careful to understand how such a decision would impact a peace process.”
That was not music to the ears of Adelson, who sees it as too similar to the general policies forwarded by previous administrations. The billionaire, who spent more than $80 million on Republican campaigns in 2016, reportedly told friends that Trump’s promise was supposed to be different. By placing contingencies on it, like Obama, Bush, and Clinton, Trump was falling into the same trap.
According to congressional law, the embassy should have been moved to Jerusalem by 1999 at the latest. But each president has taken advantage of a clause in the 1995 bill that allows them to push the move forward six months at a time, if they believe the move would pose a threat to national security.
Adelson isn’t the only one upset with the administration’s new message on the embassy. After Tillerson made his comments on NBC, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s bureau issued a statement reiterating the importance of the move.
“Relocating the American embassy would not harm the peace process, on the contrary, it would advance it by correcting a historic injustice and by shattering the Palestinian fantasy according to which Jerusalem isn’t the capital of Israel,” the prime minister’s office said.
Moderates and liberals in Israel have warned Netanyahu that moving the embassy could lead to an escalation of violence from Palestinian terrorists, but the prime minister believes that it would force the Palestinian Authority to the negotiating table with a major concession already, essentially, having been taken out of the deal.
But considering Trump’s eagerness to make the deal that no U.S. president before him has been able to make, he may want to keep all the pieces just where they are for the time being.