Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that all foreign embassies in Israel should be located in Jerusalem, chief among them the American embassy.
Speaking at a Likud event on Thursday, Netanyahu said Jerusalem is the “eternal capital of the Israeli people and it is fitting that all embassies, especially that of our friend the United States, be moved the Jerusalem.”
The remark came less than two weeks ahead of the expected visit of US President Donald Trump, who during his presidential campaign last year, promised to move the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a potential move he has distanced himself from since his election in November.
Israel considers Jerusalem its undivided capital while the Palestinians want East Jerusalem, including the Old City, as the capital of a future state. The international community has never recognized Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem after Israel captured it in 1967.
Most foreign embassies in Israel are in Tel Aviv, with some nations also maintaining consulate-generals in Jerusalem.
The possible relocation of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem is still said to be under consideration amid contradictory reports that a decision was made against the idea and rumors that the US president may announce the move during his expected trip to Israel later this month
“The president has not made a decision yet and is still reviewing that,”White House Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters on Wednesday at the daily press briefing.
Sanders was asked about a report on the Hebrew-language news site NRG that implied Israeli sources were notified Trump had decided against moving the embassy and would sign a waiver in June blocking implementation of a longstanding Congressional mandate ordering the relocation.
Every president since the 1995 law has exercised their right to sign that waiver — including Barack Obama and his predecessors George W. Bush and Bill Clinton — every six months.
Since rumors of the president’s upcoming visit to the region surfaced, speculation has grown that Trump may announce the embassy move in the Jewish state.
Trump’s trip, which was officially announced last week, comes just before Jerusalem Day, when Israel will celebrate 50 years since capturing the city’s eastern neighborhoods and holy sites in the Six Day War.
He will be in Israel May 22-23, after stopping in Saudi Arabia and before he goes on to the Vatican. He will also travel to Brussels and Sicily for NATO and G7 summits on the final leg of his first foreign trip.
Florida Rep. Ron DeSantis (R) publicly mused two weeks ago that Trump would use his visit to announce the relocation of the US Embassy.
“What better time could there be to announce the relocation of the US embassy to Jerusalem than when you are over here celebrating with our Israeli friends this very important 50th anniversary of the liberation of Jerusalem?” he said.
Eric Cortellessa contributed to this report