Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem May 3, 2017. .
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday called on all countries with embassies in Israel to relocate them from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
“Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the Jewish people,” Netanyahu said at a Likud party event celebrating the upcoming 50th anniversary of the city’s unification in the Six Day War.
“Jerusalem is Israel’s capital. It’s fitting that all the embassies – first and foremost that of our friend the United States – will be relocated to Jerusalem, which is their natural place,” he said.
He spoke in advance of US President Donald Trump’s expected visit to Jerusalem on May 22 and 23. The trip comes as Trump must make a decision to relocate the US Embassy from Tel Aviv, or waive a 1995 law’s requirement that the delegation must be in Jerusalem.
Every president has exercised the waiver option every six months on the ground of US national security interests.
Trump promised to relocate the embassy during his election campaign, but has been noncommittal since taking office.
Deputy White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee said on Wednesday, “The president has not made a decision yet – he’s still reviewing it. As soon as we have a decision, I know we’ll be happy to report back.”
There are at least 87 embassies in Israel, all of which are located in Tel Aviv, even though Jerusalem is Israel’s capital and seat of government. The Knesset, the Foreign Ministry, the Supreme Court and prime minister’s primary bureau are all located in Jerusalem.
The international community informally recognizes that western Jerusalem is Israel’s capital, but for the most part have withheld formal recognition, hesitating even to state that areas of the city within the pre-1967 lines are part of Israel.
Most countries hold that Jerusalem’s status should be determined in a final-status agreement for a two-state solution.
When US president Barack Obama came to Jerusalem last year for the funeral of former president Shimon Peres, the White House removed the world Israel from the top of the speech, leaving only “Jerusalem.”
Earlier this week when the French Embassy counted votes cast by its citizens in Israel for its presidential election, Jerusalem was not part of the Israeli tally. This included the voting areas in the western party of the city.
Russia recognized western Jerusalem as Israel’s capital only last month, but has no plans to move its embassy.
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