Netanyahu made last-ditch effort to convince US of Israel embassy move

Deadline for waiver delaying move is set to expire Thursday.

June 1, 2017 14:20
2 minute read.
US embassy Israel

A flag flutters outside the US embassy in Tel Aviv August 4, 2013. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to US Ambassador David Friedman on Monday in a final and apparently futile attempt to persuade US President Donald Trump to fulfill his campaign promise and move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, The Jerusalem Post has learned.

Trump is expected to sign a waiver on Thursday that will keep the embassy in Tel Aviv, at least for another six months. The PMO confirmed that the conversation with Friedman took place, and that Netanyahu raised the issue with Trump during his visit here last week.

According to diplomatic officials, Netanyahu, his former National Security Council head Yaakov Nagel, and ambassador to the US Ron Dermer have raised this issue at the highest levels in Washington since Trump came into office in January.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman in Jerusalem, May, 2017(HAIM ZACH/GPO)

The officials also said that there have been messages coming from Washington over the last two weeks indicating that Trump does intend to move the embassy sometime during the duration of his term.

Netanyahu, according to the officials, made clear that Israel thinks such a move is necessary and important, and rejected the claims by Arab and Palestinian leaders who lobbied Trump against the step, arguing that it would “set the Middle East on fire.”
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Israel's argument to the administration is that moving the embassy would both correct a historical anomaly whereby the US does not recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital, and it would also force the Arabs and the Palestinians to wake up from a long-harbored fantasy that they could disassociate Israel and the Jewish people from Jerusalem.

The officials noted that the promise to move the embassy to Jerusalem was a classic campaign pledge and a promise Trump gave to his voters, not Israel. As such, Israel opted to lobby for the move quietly, rather than through a major public campaign, because it had turned into a domestic US issue.

“In diplomacy there are some things you do quietly,” one senior official said.

A 1995 law compelling the US State Department to relocate its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem requires action from Trump on Thursday. According to the Jerusalem Embassy Act, the administration in power must either confirm a new embassy has opened in Israel's capital city or declare by signing a waiver that such a move would compromise “the national security interests of the United States.”

Thursday is the deadline for signing the waiver, and Trump is widely expected to do so.

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