Embassy row: Joy over early move


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is hailing plans to relocate the American Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem as early as May, calling the news, confirmed by the State Department, “a great moment for the State of Israel.”

President Trump’s decision to will make Independence Day even happier, Netanyahu said, noting that the planned relocation will coincide with the celebrations of the 70th anniversary of Israel’s independence [May 14 on the secular calendar]. “Thank you, President Trump, for your leadership and for your friendship.”

On Facebook, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat thanked Trump for “fulfilling your promise to bring the U.S. Embassy home to Jerusalem, the eternal, united capital of the Jewish people.

“This gift is a particularly meaningful way to celebrate the 70th anniversary of Israel’s independence and the 50th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem,” Barkat added. “This is a recognition of Jerusalem not just in words, but in deeds. We look forward to hosting you this year at the Jerusalem embassy!”

Israel’s Ambassador to the U.N. Danny Danon said Trump’s “courageous decision is proof of the strength of the genuine alliance and friendship between the United States and Israel.”

“This is the hour to recognize Jerusalem as the eternal capital of the State of Israel,” Danon added.

Jerusalem Affairs and Heritage Minister Zeev Elkin urged additional countries to follow the American lead and move their embassies.

“We at the Jerusalem Ministry will give any assistance necessary to advance this process, to both the U.S. State Department and to any other country that is interested,” he said.

Education Minister Naftali Bennett said, “The people in Israel thank the U.S. president for the friendship, the courage and the determination in recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and the transfer of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem. You will be recorded in the chronicles of Israel.”

Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely praised the Trump administration for its “actions to implement the historic decision” to transfer the U.S. Embassy.

Deputy Minister and former Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren called the announcement “a great moment for the State of Israel.”

He said he believed additional countries would follow in the U.S.’s footsteps and relocate their own embassies to Jerusalem.

“This is another step that proves Trump is a president who lives up to his word,” he said, adding that Israel was committed to channeling its strong friendship with the U.S. administration to work toward a genuine solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“I congratulate President Trump and thank him from the bottom of my heart,” Oren said.

Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Chairman Avi Dichter said, “In a 70-year delay, the U.S. Embassy will be located in Jerusalem, Israel’s capital. Calling the move “a small step for America, a giant step for Israel and humanity,” he said, “We hope this move will propel other countries around the world to transfer their embassy to Jerusalem.”

According to Likud MK Anat Berko, “This news only proves how important Israel is to the international community and how beloved it is to the U.S.”

Likud MK Yehuda Glick hailed the move as “a historic decision of biblical proportions.”

Yisrael Beytenu MK Oded Forer said that with the embassy relocation, “The Americans have proved that the winds that have blown since President Trump entered [office] are genuine.” He hailed his “friends in Congress and the American administration for keeping their promise and their steadfast stance alongside Israel and Jerusalem.”

United Torah Judaism MK Uri Maklev was slightly more cautious in his praise for the move. He said the embassy relocation was “a good thing if it comes from the recognition of the importance of the issue, and not from a demand by Israel and in the hope that we will not end up paying a heavy price.”

Opposition lawmakers also welcomed the move.

Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid said Israel should “thank President Trump for a wonderful gift for Israel’s 70th birthday.”

In a statement, the president of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem, Dr. Jurgen Buhler, said, “We are grateful to the Trump administration, which has kept its promise to transfer the American Embassy to the capital, the place where it should be. We join the people of Israel and its government in saluting the gesture.

“The Christian Embassy hopes other countries will join the move and we are acting to achieve this goal through our representatives and activists around the world. It is our belief that the transfer of the U.S. Embassy and other embassies from around the world will bolster the city’s standing around the world and the freedom of religion that the State of Israel grants the city,” the statement said.

Longtime Israeli diplomat Dore Gold, who most recently served as Director-General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs under Netanyahu and is now president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, told JNS: “All I can do is voice my tremendous admiration for the determination of the Trump administration to move forward with moving the embassy.”

He believes Trump’s decision is important domestically and internationally as it shows he can keep his word. Gold explained that for Arab states that rely on “the wings of the American eagle for security,” seeing a U.S. president stand strong, even if it is for Israel, means that he will stand strong for them as well.

“The president made a commitment, and he is keeping that commitment,” said Gold.

Asked if he thought other countries would follow suit in recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moving their embassies there, he noted “that the U.S. was the first country to recognize Israel — within minutes — after it announced independence in 1948. After the U.S. recognized Israel, other countries followed. So I think it’s likely, yes.”

Professor Efraim Inbar, president of the Jerusalem Institute for Strategic Studies, told JNS he believes the move would be “a historic justice.” He noted that “it is an important step in normalizing the status of Jerusalem,” and agreed with Gold that “other countries will follow the American example.”

Israel Kasnett of JNS contributed to this report.