Netanyahu on US embassy relocation in May: ‘A great day for Israel’
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Netanyahu on US embassy relocation in May: ‘A great day for Israel’

PM says Washington's decision to open Jerusalem embassy 'will turn 70th Independence Day into an even bigger celebration,' thanks Trump for 'leadership and friendship'

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads a cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, January 21, 2018. (Alex Kolomoisky/Pool)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads a cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, January 21, 2018. (Alex Kolomoisky/Pool)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed the US announcement it will officially relocate its embassy to Jerusalem in May “a great day for the people of Israel.”

In a statement issued by Israel’s Embassy in Washington DC, the Israeli leader said: “President Trump’s decision to move the United States Embassy to Jerusalem on the coming Independence Day follows his historic declaration in December to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

“This decision will turn Israel’s 70th Independence Day into an even bigger celebration. Thank you President Trump for your leadership and friendship.”

Netanyahu’s office issued a video with similar remarks on Saturday night, after the sabbath.

Israel’s Ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer praised the decision in a tweet:

Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon welcomed the announcement as well.

“President Trump’s bold decision to move the American embassy to Jerusalem this May, in honor of our 70th Independence Day, is a testament to the unbreakable alliance and true friendship between the US and Israel,” he said.

Danny Danon speaks to the media prior to the Security Council meeting on the Middle East on May 11, 2017. (Mark Garten/UN Photo)

“The time is now for all UN member states to follow in the footsteps of the US and declare that they too recognize Jerusalem as the eternal capital of the State of Israel.”

The US State Department notified Congress on Friday that the Jerusalem embassy will open in May, to coincide with the 70th anniversary of Israel declaring independence.

The State Department confirmed the timing of the move, with an official telling The Times of Israel: “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.”

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, and said “unilateral” moves will 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 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.

Khaled Abu Toameh contriuted to this report.

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