Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Donald Trump at Ben Gurion airport on May 23, 2017.
(photo credit: KOBI GIDEON/GPO)
AHMEDABAD, India – The US will move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem “sooner than you think,” likely “within the year,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday.
Netanyahu, speaking to reporters as he was flying from New Delhi to Gujarat on the fourth day of his India trip, said that this is one of three dramatic steps the US is taking in the Middle East that it has never taken before.
That the US will move the embassy so quickly, he said, is based on “concrete” Israeli assessments.
The second highly significant step, Netanyahu said, was the decision to cut US aid to the UN Relief and Works Agency in half.
Netanyahu praised the US for its decision to cut the funding to UNRWA, saying that this is the first time that the organization, which he said perpetuates the refugee issue and the narrative of “canceling Zionism,” was being challenged.
The prime minister has suggested diverting the money from UNRWA to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, which deals with refugees from all over the world, but said that if the choice was between “doing nothing” on UNRWA and cutting the funds, cutting the funding is preferable.
The third significant US step Netanyahu mentioned was the ultimatum issued last week by US President Donald Trump on the Iranian nuclear deal, offering 120 days to fix or nix the accord, which the prime minster called a “dramatic change vis-a-vis Iran.”
On January 12, Trump signed a waiver keeping the US nuclear-related sanctions off of Iran, thereby keeping the US in the international deal governing its nuclear program.
However, a senior administration official warned that Trump would not sign any more such waivers going forward – starting a 120- day clock for negotiations over what the White House describes as a supplemental accord with Europe that will impose new terms on Iran over its future nuclear work.
“This is very important,” Netanyahu said.
“Otherwise, Iran’s train will be going to just one place,” which he believes is the attainment of a nuclear arsenal.
On Tuesday evening, Netanyahu ran into Wendy Sherman at the Raisina Dialogue in New Delhi, where he delivered the keynote speech. Sherman was one of the leading US negotiators who arranged the Iran deal.
An Israeli official said the two exchanged pleasantries, but did not discuss the Iranian agreement.
Likewise, Netanyahu met and spoke very briefly with former Afghan president Hamid Karzai. The two men shook hands and – according to the official – Karzai said “It’s nice to meet you,” to which Netanyahu responded, “It’s nice to meet you, too.”