Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Donald Trump at Ben Gurion airport on May 23, 2017.
(photo credit: KOBI GIDEON/GPO)
The lack of foreign embassies in Israel's capital distances peace because it feeds the Palestinian delusion that there is no connection between the Jews and Israel to Jerusalem, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday shortly after US President Donald Trump signed a waiver keeping the US embassy in Tel Aviv.
A statement from the Prime Minister's Office said that Israel's consistent position has been that the US embassy, like all the embassies in Israel, needs to be located in Jerusalem.
The statement said that despite disappointment that that the embassy will not be moved, “Israel appreciates the friendly words of President Trump and his commitment to move the embassy to Jerusalem at a later date.”
Israeli public figures from across the political spectrum also weighed in shortly after the White House's announcement.
Right-wing Education Minister Naftali Bennett reiterated his party's position on relocating the US embassy to Jerusalem, stating: "There is no peace based on the division of Jerusalem."
"Delaying the US Embassy move will in fact have an opposite affect and damage the prospect of a lasting peace by nurturing false expectations among the Palestinians regarding the division of Jerusalem, which will never happen.
"Only recognizing a united Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty will end illusions and pave the way to a sustainable peace with our neighbors," the Beyit Yehudi faction leader added.
Tourism Minister Yariv Levin (Likud) said “this is not the way to make America great again.” Trump, he said, was a “true friend of Israel,” which makes the disappointment at his not moving the embassy “all the greater.”
Jerusalem Affairs Minister Ze’ev Elkin (Likud) also expressed “disappointment,” and called upon Trump to move the embassy in the coming year, which marks the jubilee of Jerusalem’s reunification.
Moving the embassy, he said, would have made it clear to the Palestinians what the vast majority of Israelis understand: “Israel will never agree to the division of Jerusalem.”
Politicians on the Israeli Center-Left and Left said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should take responsibility for US President Donald Trump's decision to sign a waiver preventing the move of the US embassy to Jerusalem
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog said all the world's embassies should be in Jerusalem but "unfortunately Netanyahu learned a lesson that their are no shortcuts and who ever wants international recognition must reach a courageous diplomatic agreement."
Labor leadership candidate Amir Peretz said "the prime minister and his right wing policies cause there to be no embassies in the capital." He said when his party return to power, "the peace process will move forward and the embassies will also move."
Meretz leader Zahava Gal-on said the move was "the right decision for the moment" and a good sign Trump would make a serious effort to advance a peace process between Israel and the Palestinians.
"Moving the embassy could have blown up the peace process before we even knew what it would be," Gal-On said. "West Jerusalem is Israel's capital and it will continue to be, with or without the American embassy. Moving the embassy, as Israel wanted, would not have strengthened our sovereignty over the city. If anything, it would have pushed more countries to recognize a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital."
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat admitted he was disappointed but said he was sure President Trump will keep his promise later on.
"We will continue to do what it takes to encourage him to move the embassy to the capital of Israel as soon as possible," Barkat said. "We stand ready to do whatever is necessary to help the move take place."
Likud MK Oren Hazan, who made waves by talking a selfie with Trump at Ben-Gurion airport last week, was shocked to hear about the president's decision from The Jerusalem Post.
"I don't regret getting the selfie but I hope this isn't a bad omen," Hazan said. "He still has time to change his mind and move the embassy. I hope in the future. I will do a selfy with him in Jerusalem, our eternal capital."
The White House issued a statement saying that while Trump signed the waiver “and delayed” moving the embassy, “no one should consider this step to be in any way a retreat from the President's strong support for Israel and for the United States-Israel alliance.”
The statement said that Trump made the decision, which is a stark reversal of a campaign promise, in order to “maximize the chances of successfully negotiating a deal between Israel and the Palestinians, fulfilling his solemn obligation to defend America's national security interest.”
The statement continued: “But, as he has repeatedly stated his intention to move the embassy, the question is not if that move happens, but only when.”
Daniel J. Roth contributed to this story.