Cheering Netanyahu says US embassy move will have ‘long-term implications’
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Cheering Netanyahu says US embassy move will have ‘long-term implications’

PM thanks Trump for his ‘leadership and friendship’ after Washington announces mission will be transferred from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in May

Raoul Wootliff is the The Times of Israel's political correspondent.

The US decision to relocate its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem will have “long-term implications,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday, reiterating his praise of the announcement and thanking US President Donald Trump for the “historic” move planned for Israel’s 70th Independence Day anniversary in May.

“This is a great moment for the citizens of Israel and a historic moment for the State of Israel,” Netanyahu told his ministers at the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem. “All the citizens of Israel will celebrate it together. It has long-term implications and great historic significance.”

Repeating comments he made in a Saturday night video praising the US announcement, Netanyahu thanked the Trump for the planned move, whose timing was announced Friday, following the US president’s declaration in December recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs the weekly cabinet meeting at his Jerusalem office on February 25, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / GALI TIBBON)

“I want to thank President Trump, on behalf of the entire government and the entire people, for both your leadership and friendship. President Trump you are a great friend to the State of Israel. We thank you,” Netanyahu said.

Netanyahu is expected to invite Trump to Israel in May to inaugurate the new US embassy, Hadashot TV news reported on Saturday.

The US State Department notified Congress on Friday that the Jerusalem embassy would open in May to coincide with the 70th anniversary of Israel declaring independence, speeding up the process by converting a building currently housing consular services into the embassy.

The State Department confirmed the timing of the move.

“The embassy will initially be located in Arnona [in south Jerusalem], on a compound that currently houses the consular operations of Consulate General Jerusalem. At least initially, it will consist of the ambassador and a small team,” an official said on condition of anonymity

A ribbon-cutting ceremony is being planned for mid-May. Israel proclaimed independence on May 14, 1948. According to Channel 10 and Hadashot news, the ceremony could be held on May 14 to honor that date. (Israel celebrates its anniversary of independence according to the Hebrew calendar; Independence Day — Yom Ha’atzmaut — falls on April 19 this year.)

US President Donald Trump gives a thumbs-up as he walks to Marine One prior to departure from the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, DC, February 16, 2018, as he travels to Florida for the weekend. (AFP/Saul Loeb)

The Palestinian Authority responded in anger to the news, saying “unilateral” moves would not contribute to achieving peace between the Palestinians and Israel.

Hamas, for its part, warned that the decision would lead to an “explosion” in the region.

Trump’s December declaration recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and announcing plans to relocate the embassy there was met with worldwide condemnation. That same month the United Nations General Assembly overwhelmingly passed a resolution condemning the administration’s move and calling on countries not to move their diplomatic missions to the city.

Relations between the US administration and the PA have been strained since Trump’s December 6 announcement.

PA President Mahmoud Abbas and senior PA officials have since stated that the US is no longer qualified to play any role in a Middle East peace process because of its “bias” in favor of Israel, and the PA has refused all substantive contacts with the Trump administration.

Times of Israel staff and AP contributed to this report.

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