Netanyahu says more countries to follow Trump lead on Jerusalem
'Trump inscribed himself in annals of capital for all time'

Netanyahu says more countries to follow Trump lead on Jerusalem

Prime minister says he is contact with countries on moving embassies to capital; officials say Prague and Manila first in line

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the International Conference on Digital Diplomacy at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, on December 7, 2017. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the International Conference on Digital Diplomacy at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, on December 7, 2017. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Israeli officials downplayed threats of a diplomatic backlash in the wake of US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the country’s capital, saying other countries were eager to follow suit and international ties would not be affected.

Speaking at a Foreign Ministry diplomatic conference a day after Trump made his historic announcement, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he was in contact with other countries that want to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move their embassies there.

“We are holding contacts with other countries who will also recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. I have no doubt than when the US Embassy will move there, and even before that, many embassies will relocate to Jerusalem. It’s about time,” he said.

Trump on Wednesday night made a speech declaring Jerusalem the capital of Israel, shattering decades of unwavering US neutrality on the city.

“Good morning and welcome to Jerusalem, the capital of the Jewish State of Israel,” Netanyahu told the attendees of the Foreign Ministry’s International Conference in Digital Diplomacy. “If you weren’t aware of that until yesterday, you are now. But we’ve been aware of it for 3,000 years.”

“Yesterday was a momentous day,” he added, thanking Trump for his dramatic step. “President Trump has inscribed himself in the annals of our capital for all time. His name will now be linked to the names of others in the context of the glorious history of Jerusalem and our people,” Netanyahu said, speaking in Hebrew.

“The Jewish people designated Jerusalem as its capital 3,000 years ago. Here our forefathers walked, here our kings ruled, here our prophets preached. Here are our roots,” he went on. “This is, in effect, our identity card.”

Defying dire, worldwide warnings, Trump insisted that after repeated peace failures it was past time for a new approach, starting with what he said was a decision merely based on reality to recognize Jerusalem as the seat of Israel’s government. He also said the United States would move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, though he set no timetable for the relocation.

US President Donald Trump in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House, December 6, 2017, in Washington. (AP/Alex Brandon)

While the move was hailed in Israel, most of the rest of the international community condemned it, with the Palestinians saying the US had lost its role as a broker of peace negotiations.

However, the Czech Republic seemingly backed Trump, declaring that it recognized the western part of the city as Israel’s capital.

Israeli officials said Thursday that both the Czech Republic and the Philippines were eager to move their embassies from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The officials said they expect Czech President Milos Zeman to recognize the city as Israel’s capital in an interview slated for later Thursday.

Jerusalem expects that Hungary may follow suit. Budapest on Wednesday blocked a joint EU statement that would have opposed Trump’s move, European sources told The Times of Israel.

However, some Israeli diplomats are concerned over possible momentum developing for countries to recognize only West Jerusalem, as Russia did earlier this year.

Palestinian youths take part in a protest against US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, in Gaza City, December 7, 2017. (MOHAMMED ABED/AFP)

Israel has long declared all of Jerusalem its undivided capital, but the international community had never recognized the move, saying the city’s status needed to be determined via final status negotiations with the Palestinians, who claim East Jerusalem as the capital of their own future state.

The announcement by Trump was accompanied by threats of a violent backlash from the Muslim world, with Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan saying Ankara could cut ties and warning Trump that recognition of Jerusalem was a “red line.”

However, the Foreign Ministry is not expecting Turkey to follow through with its threat to sever its relationship with Israel over the move by Trump, Israeli officials said Thursday morning.

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