(JTA) – U.S. President Donald Trump deflected a question about whether he was preparing to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital during his upcoming trip to the Jewish state.
“Ask me in a month on that,” Trump said in an interview with Reuters on Thursday.
The comment came on the same day that Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., suggested Trump may announce the relocation of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv when he visits Israel in late May. DeSantis toured possible Jerusalem sites for the embassy during a visit in March as part of a congressional delegation.
“What better time could there be to announce the relocation of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem than when you are over here celebrating with our Israeli friends this very important 50th anniversary of the liberation of Jerusalem?” DeSantis said Thursday at the launch of the Congressional Israel Victory Caucus, a new group of stridently pro-Israel Republicans.
“I think the announcement of that trip is a signal that it is more likely to happen than not, and will send a powerful signal to other countries around the world that America is back and will stand by our allies and will not let folks cower us into not doing the right thing,” added DeSantis, who is chair of the House oversight national security subcommittee, which has oversight of American embassies abroad.
As a candidate, Trump promised to move the embassy to Jerusalem, which was required by an act of Congress in 1995 but which successive administrations have delayed with a series of six-month waivers, citing national security concerns. The latest waiver, signed by Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, will expire in June.
Trump reportedly is due to arrive in Israel on May 22 and spend one night in the country. Jerusalem Day, which celebrates the reunification of the city 50 years ago, will begin the evening of May 23.
Trump is expected to be accompanied on the trip by his Jewish daughter and son-in-law, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, in what will be his first trip abroad as president.
According to reports on Israeli television this week cited by The Times of Israel, Israel is planning to announce the building of 25,000 new homes in Jerusalem during Trump’s visit, including 15,000 units in eastern Jerusalem, which most of the world considers to be occupied territory. Trump has asked Israel to scale back its settlement building in the interests of achieving a peace deal with the Palestinians.
In the Reuters interview, Trump reiterated his desire to reach a peace deal.
“I want to see peace with Israel and the Palestinians,” he said. “There is no reason there’s not peace between Israel and the Palestinians – none whatsoever.”