Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem May 3, 2017. .
(photo credit: REUTERS)
In a rare move, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu released information he shared privately with the White House to disprove a Fox News correspondent’s claim that Israel opposes relocating the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
“Everyone I’ve spoken to in DC that has been briefed on the Jerusalem embassy move says Netanyahu told Trump not to move embassy at this time,” Fox News foreign correspondent Connor Powell wrote on Twitter.
Netanyahu’s office issued a sharp retort: “The claims posted by a Fox News correspondent are false.”
Powell’s tweet followed an intense debate in Israel ahead of US President Donald Trump’s visit next week regarding Israel’s position on the matter. In an interview with NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson also seemed to indicate that Israel had hesitations about the move because of its impact on the possible beginnings of a peace process to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Netanyahu immediately responded that a US Embassy in Jerusalem would advance peace and prove to the Palestinians that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital.
On Monday, after the Fox comment, Netanyahu released a summary of his meetings with Trump in February 2017 that were recorded by Jacob Nagel, who at the time was acting head of the National Security Council.
Regarding the Oval Office meeting between Netanyahu and Trump, Nagel wrote, “From the meeting in the Oval Office, the embassy – the PM supports moving it.”
He continued with notes from the White House lunch meeting: “The PM was asked about the embassy and explained [that moving it] would not lead to bloodshed in the region, as some were trying to intimidate [President Trump] into believing.”
The PMO also provided information from a January 16 meeting between Israel’s Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer and Michael Flynn, who at the time was the US national security adviser.
“[Dermer] explained why moving the embassy would help advance peace and not the opposite. This would send the message that we are in Jerusalem to stay. Moving the embassy would force the other side to contend with the lie they’ve constructed – that Israel has no connection to Jerusalem – and will cause them to understand that Israel will be here forever with Jerusalem as its capital.”
The Prime Minister’s Office then added, “This is the clear and consistent position of Prime Minister Netanyahu, which he reiterated today.”