Tension persists within the Israeli government on Monday following statements by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson claiming that US President Donald Trump was still debating moving the American embassy to Jerusalem. Secretary Tillerson told NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday that the president was carefully weighing whether the move would help or harm the peace process.
“Israel’s position was often made clear to the American administration and to the world,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said. “Not only will the relocation to Jerusalem of the American embassy not harm the peace process, but the opposite. It will promote it by correcting a historic injustice and by eliminating the Palestinian fantasy that Jerusalem is not the capital of Israel.”
Netanyahu’s statement followed a demand by Education Minister and Jewish Home Chairman MK Naftali Bennett that the prime minister further clarify Israel’s position on the matter.
“I call on the prime minister to make it clear that we expect the US administration to move the embassy to Jerusalem and to recognize a united Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty,” wrote Bennett on his Twitter account.
“The relocation of the US embassy to Israel’s capital strengthens Israel and strengthens the chances for true peace, as any agreement based on the division of Jerusalem is bound to fail,” Bennett continued. “Just as embassies around the world are in the US capital, Washington, that is the way it should be in Jerusalem, our capital for 3000 years. This is our eternal capital and there is no other.”
Agriculture Minister MK Uri Ariel told Army Radio that the demand to move the embassy “was made by President Trump himself, so we expect a man to keep his word. In my opinion, this is not an excessive demand and we have yet to hear from the president himself.”
The relocation of the US embassy to Jerusalem has been a crucial issue since President Trump’s campaign. Despite the controversy surrounding the topic, Trump’s intentions regarding the move remain uncertain. The debate intensified recently in light of President Trump’s visit to Israel scheduled for May 22 to May 23, a day before Israel celebrates the 50th anniversary of the capital’s liberation on May 24.
The Jerusalem Embassy Act was passed by Congress in 1995 in order to fund the relocation of the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The act includes an option for the president to sign a waiver that would postpone the move and all presidents have since used that option to thwart the relocation of the embassy.
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan also responded to Tillerson’s statements and told Army Radio that a peace agreement is not currently attainable. “I agree that it is impossible to talk about peace and true reconciliation at the present time because our neighbors have not yet abandoned the idea that the State of Israel as a Jewish state will disappear from the map.”