A multi-story poster in Jerusalem’s Baka neighborhood hails US President Donald Trump’s proclaimed plan to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Israel’s capital.
The sign, which went up in the days leading up to Trump’s Friday inauguration, reads: “Mazeltov on your decision to move your Embassy to Jerusalem.”
Trump vowed to make the move while on the campaign trail and after his election victory in November.
The poster is part of an ad for a real-estate development company. It covers the side of a building under construction in the capital’s Bethlehem Road, and has become a favorite target for shutterbugs in recent days.
The congratulations may be premature. Despite the campaign promises, Trump’s transition team and White House officials have declined to confirm any specific plan to move the embassy.
Still, last week, Trump told the Israel Hayom Hebrew-language daily that he intended to go through with his pledge, saying that “clearly I did not forget” the promise made on the campaign trail.
Asked by the paper Tuesday night at the Chairman’s Global Dinner in Washington, DC — an exclusive black tie event for diplomats and members of the incoming administration — if “you have not forgotten your promise concerning the embassy in Jerusalem,” Trump responded that “of course I remember what I said about Jerusalem.”
“You know that I am not a person who breaks promises,” he added in comments published in Hebrew by the paper on Thursday morning.
And on Thursday, Trump’s then-incoming White House press secretary Sean Spicer said an announcement on the administration’s plan to relocate the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem was in the works.
Asked about Trump’s intention to make the move — upending decades of US policy on the issue — Spicer told reporters to “stay tuned” and that “there will be a further announcement on that.”
Spicer’s statement came less than 24 hours after newly retired president Barack Obama warned his successor to be sure he’s “thought it through,” warning that “unilateral actions” in a volatile region like the Middle East can be “explosive.”
“The actions we take have enormous consequences and ramifications,” Obama said when asked about Trump’s stated goal of recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s sovereign capital. “We’re the biggest kid on the block.”
“I think it is right and appropriate for a new president to test all the assumptions and re-examine the old ways of doing things,” he added. “But if you’re going to make big shifts in policy, just make sure you’ve thought it through and understand that there are going to be consequences.”
Palestinian and Arab leaders have warned that relocating the embassy could lead to mass protests and unrest. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has indicated he could revoke the PLO’s recognition of Israel, while Abbas’s Fatah party warned the move “would open the gates of hell.”
Members of the Israeli government, meanwhile, have been vocally supportive of the plan, but Israeli security officials are reportedly preparing for possible violence in the wake of such a move.
According to a report Friday in the Haaretz newspaper, officials from the IDF, police and Shin Bet earlier this week presented Netanyahu and senior members of the cabinet — among them Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman and Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan — with scenarios that could ensue after an embassy relocation.
The prime minister instructed the security officials to prepare for such a move from the moment that the new president is sworn in.
Haaretz quoted two senior Israeli officials familiar with topics raised at the meeting as saying that Netanyahu and others present made it clear that Israel has no solid information on if and when Trump will issue a notice to transfer the embassy to Jerusalem.
One of the officials said Netanyahu has spoken with Trump by phone several times since the election, but at the time of the meeting, had not received a clear answer from the new president about the timing of an embassy relocation.
According to Haaretz, the two officials said that the purpose of the meeting was to prepare for possible repercussions from the relocation of the embassy, particularly in light of a media campaign being waged against it by the Palestinian Authority. One of the officials said there has been explicit incitement to violence by Palestinian officials in recent weeks regarding the matter.
News agencies contributed to this report.