Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said US President Donald Trump is “worthy of all praise” for his planned move of the US embassy to Jerusalem in May, and predicted that other countries would soon follow suit.
“We are in touch with other countries, and it’s only a matter of time before other countries join the US in moving their embassies to Jerusalem,” said Netanyahu at the weekly Likud faction meeting.
The prime minister said he would “personally thank” Trump during their meeting in Washington next week on behalf of Israel, declaring the US president “worthy of all praise” for the decision.
Netanyahu also said he would discuss Iran’s nuclear program during the White House meeting.
The US State Department notified Congress on Friday that the Jerusalem embassy would open in May to coincide with the 70th anniversary of Israel’s 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.
Netanyahu is expected to invite Trump to Israel in May to inaugurate the new US embassy, Hadashot TV news reported on Saturday.
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.)
The prime minister on Sunday said the move would have “long-term implications.”
“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.”
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 Israeli praise and 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 was 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.