Benjamin Netanyahu, prime minister of Israel, said the United States could move the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem without worrying about any dings to the peace process.
His remarks came after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson hinted that Bibi might not want the embassy moved there, because it could prove an impediment to peace talks.
But Netanyahu doubled down and said his position on the embassy hasn’t changed.
From CNS News:
“‘Israel’s position has been stated many times to the American administration and to the world,’ Netanyahu said in a statement, which his office said was in response to Tillerson’s remarks.
“‘Moving the American embassy to Jerusalem would not harm the peace process,’ the prime minister said. ‘On the contrary, it would advance it by correcting an historical injustice and by shattering the Palestinian fantasy that Jerusalem is not the capital of Israel.’
“For months Israeli and regional media outlets have speculated that while Israel has long sought embassies to move from Tel Aviv and surrounding areas to its declared capital, the government worries that should President Trump make good on his campaign promise to move the U.S. mission the benefits could be outweighed by negative consequences.
“The implication has been that Netanyahu – while unable to say so publicly for fear of alienating his support base – hopes that Trump will not keep his pledge.
“Moving the embassy would be deeply controversial since Palestinians contest Israel’s right to the city and want to establish the capital of a future independent state there – a demand Palestinian Authority (P.A.) chairman Mahmoud Abbas reiterated at his March 3 Oval Office meeting with Trump.”
Islamic leaders have warned that recognizing Israel’s claim to the land in so openly a manner would put a stop to peace talks, and trigger anger in the Muslim world.
But Trump made a campaign vow to move the embassy.
Again, from CNS News:
“Moving the embassy to Jerusalem would not only keep an unequivocal campaign promise but would also be in line with U.S. law, which three successive administrations have chosen not to observe over the past 18 years, by passing six-monthly national security waivers.
“President Obama invoked the last such waiver on December 1 last year, so Trump will either have to follow suit on or before June 1, or set in motion steps towards moving the embassy from its current Tel Aviv beachfront location.
“The now-confirmed new ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, is due to take up his duties from Monday. An orthodox Jew and ardent Zionist, Friedman made clear when nominated and since, that he hopes to be working from Jerusalem as soon as possible.”
EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in The Geller Report.