White House may not move U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem

WASHINGTON — The White House seems to be backing off President Trump's hard-and-fast promise to move the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said on Monday that it wasn't certain that Trump would follow through on his previous promise to move the embassy.

"If it was already a decision we wouldn’t be going through a process," Spicer said when asked if the decision to move the embassy had definitely been made. "There's no decisions. We're at the very early stages of that decision-making process."

That's a lot less committal than months of promises Trump made as both a candidate and President-elect.

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"We will move the American embassy to the eternal capital of the Jewish people, Jerusalem," he declared in a speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee last year.

When he was announced as Trump's pick for U.S. ambassador to Israel in December, David Friedman said he looked "forward to doing this from the U.S. embassy in Israel’s eternal capital, Jerusalem."

But while Israel would like to see the move, it would enrage many Arab leaders, including Palestinian officials, and many experts worry it could hurt any chances of reviving the peace process in the region.

Presidents Obama and George W. Bush also promised to move the embassy as candidates before deciding against it once in office.

Spicer also indicated that the Trump administration isn't planning to make it a priority to deport previously undocumented people who moved to the country as children and are now legally in the U.S. under the DACA program instituted by President Obama.

"On the DACA piece, I think the president has been clear that he was going to prioritize the areas of dealing with the immigration system, both building the wall and making sure that we address people who are in this country illegally first and foremost," Spicer said. "The president's been very, very clear that we need to direct agencies to focus on those who are in this country illegally and have a record — a criminal record or pose a threat to the American people. That's where the priority's going to be and then we're going to continue to work through the entire number of folks that are here illegally."

He deferred to the Pentagon on its pushback against Russia's claims that it was participating in joint bombing raids with the U.S. in Syria for the first time, but left the door open to future operations, saying Trump would “if there's a way that we can combat ISIS with any country, whether it's Russia or anyone else, and we have a shared national interest in that, sure we'll take it."

And while he promised the U.S. won't send troops back into Iraq, Spicer wouldn't dispute Trump's previous suggestion that America should take countries' oil.

"If we're going in to a country for a cause, I think that he wants to make sure that America's getting something out of it for the commitment and the sacrifice that we're making," he said.

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