Netanyahu reaffirms view US embassy should be in Jerusalem

Arab states warn White House of severe repercussions if embassy moves from Tel Aviv

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu: “Jerusalem is Israel’s capital, and . . . all embassies should be moved here.” Photograph: Abir Sultan/Reuters

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu: “Jerusalem is Israel’s capital, and . . . all embassies should be moved here.” Photograph: Abir Sultan/Reuters

 

Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu has clarified that his government holds the position that the US embassy should be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

During the US election campaign, Donald Trump spoke often about relocating the embassy, but since taking office the contentious issue seems to have been put on the back-burner.

Last week, White House press secretary Sean Spicer indicated there would be no imminent decision. “We are at the very beginning stages of even discussing this subject,” he said.

Israeli officials confirmed that the issue was barely discussed during a 30-minute phone call between the two leaders last week and Mr Netanyahu did not seek a commitment from Mr Trump or a time frame.

Mr Netanyahu on Sunday rejected claims by Marc Zell, co-chairman of Republicans Overseas Israel, that Israel had urged Mr Trump to delay the process of moving the embassy.

“I would like to clarify unequivocally that our position – now and at all times – has always been that the US embassy should be here in Jerusalem,” he stated.

“Jerusalem is Israel’s capital, and not only should the American embassy be in Jerusalem, but all embassies should be moved here, and I believe that in due time they will all reach Jerusalem.”

Severe repercussions

Israel captured Arab east Jerusalem from Jordan during the 1967 Six-Day War, and Arab states maintain that moving the embassy would mean explicit recognition of all of Jerusalem belonging to Israel.

Jordan, the Palestinian Authority and other Arab states have warned the White House of severe repercussions should it proceed with the move, including a review of bilateral relations with both the US and Israel. Palestinian officials have also warned of an upsurge in violence should the embassy be relocated.

In a related development, Mexico reacted angrily after Mr Netanyahu indicated support for Mr Trump’s plan to build a wall along the Mexican border.

Mexico’s foreign ministry said in a communiqué that it had expressed to Israel’s ambassador its “profound surprise, rejection and disappointment in the prime minister’s message on Twitter”.

Building walls

On Saturday, Mr Netanyahu had welcomed praise from Mr Trump for Israel’s security barrier in the West Bank. Referring to the recently built fence along Israel’s border with Egypt, the prime minister said the measure had been a “great success” in keeping out migrants, mainly from African countries.

“President Trump is right. I built a wall along Israel’s southern border. It stopped all illegal immigration. Great success. Great idea,” Mr Netanyahu wrote.

The Mexican Jewish community also said in a formal statement that it “strongly rejected Netanyahu’s position”.

Israel’s foreign ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon later issued a statement in an attempt to address Mexico’s criticism.

“Netanyahu referred to our specific security experience which we are willing to share. We do not express a position on US-Mexico relations,” he tweeted.

Israel built its barrier along its southern border with Egypt in 2012 after some 60,000 African migrants had entered the country over the previous six years.