Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to invite US President Donald Trump to Israel in May to inaugurate the US embassy, which Washington announced on Friday will be relocated to Jerusalem on Israel’s Independence Day, Hadashot TV news reported on Saturday.
In a video statement posted to his social media channels on Saturday night, Netanyahu said the US announcement to relocate the embassy, which follows Trump’s historic declaration in December to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, marked a “great moment for the State of Israel.”
“The decision by President Trump to relocate the US embassy to Jerusalem on the coming Independence Day, will make the celebrations even more joyful,” said Netanyahu.
“Thank you President Trump, thank you for your leadership, and your strong friendship,” Netanyahu added.
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.)
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 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.
Khaled Abu Toameh contriuted to this report.