Obama’s ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro not invited to US embassy opening
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'I'm celebrating. I'm in favor. I would have participated'

Obama’s ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro not invited to US embassy opening

Envoy, who still lives in Israel, has praised the 'historic' relocation and attended Sunday's Foreign Ministry celebration; says he has 'very good' ties with successor Friedman

Former US ambassador Dan Shapiro speaks at a Times of Israel event in Jerusalem, July 2, 2017. (Luke Tress/Times of Israel)
Former US ambassador Dan Shapiro speaks at a Times of Israel event in Jerusalem, July 2, 2017. (Luke Tress/Times of Israel)

Daniel Shapiro, the US ambassador to Israel during the Obama administration, was not invited to Monday’s opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem.

Shapiro, who served as president Barack Obama’s ambassador in Tel Aviv from 2011 to January 2017, said he would have been pleased to attend the ceremony and that he firmly supports the embassy move, but did not receive an invitation.

“I’m celebrating” the embassy move, he said in an Army Radio interview on Monday morning. “I’m in favor… I would have participated.”

Shapiro, who has, since ending his ambassadorship, stayed in Israel as a distinguished visiting fellow at the Tel Aviv University Institute for National Security Studies, noted that he was invited to attend — and did attend — Sunday evening’s Israeli Foreign Ministry event ahead of the embassy inauguration.

He said he has “very good relations” with his successor, David Friedman. “I saw him yesterday at the festive ceremony at the Foreign Ministry,” said Shapiro. “I congratulated him.”

Sounding unfazed by the apparent snub, Shapiro said he had “lots of media work to do.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, with US Ambassador David Friedman, at a welcome ceremony at the Foreign Ministry, ahead of the official opening of the US Embassy in Jerusalem, May 13, 2018. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Shapiro called the embassy move “historic… a decision that all Israel’s citizens awaited for many years, for 70 years.”

He anticipated that other countries would also move their embassies to Jerusalem in the wake of the US decision. He quoted US President Donald Trump as saying the move was a simple “recognition of a fact that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel.”

Asked why the move had not been ordered before, including during his time as ambassador, Shapiro said that, in the past, “there were efforts to advance negotiations… and the decision was not to relocate [the embassy] if it would make negotiations harder. Today there are no negotiations… There is a complete lack of trust between the leaders” of Israel and the Palestinians and “no possibility of negotiations now or in the near future.”

Therefore, said Shapiro, “the situation is different — you can’t impact negotiations that are not taking place.”

A worker installs decorations of Israeli and US flags in front of the current US Consulate in Jerusalem where US officials will on May 14 install the new US Embassy. (AFP/Thomas Coex)

Unfortunately, as things stand, he said, the Trump administration, while seeking “the ultimate deal,” doesn’t even have “the capacity to sit with the Palestinians” in order to present its proposals.

The fact is, however, he added, that “if the Palestinians want to attain their wish — a sovereign, independent state — they will certainly have to accept that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel; it’s a fact they need to recognize.”

At the same time, Shapiro would have liked the “correct decision” to move the embassy to have been presented in the context of the strategic goal of two states for two peoples — “in other words, that ultimately the capital of Palestine will also be in the Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem.”

He said he had heard there might be some Democratic representatives at the embassy ceremony, but was not sure who had been invited. There was a concern among some Democrats, he said, that the two-state solution was not being advanced. Nonetheless, he stressed, the embassy move was a step that is “appropriate to come and celebrate.”

Shapiro wrote on Saturday that the move to transfer the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem could help end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In an essay published on CNN.com, Shapiro said that amid the concerns about the decision “and its impact on prospects for peace,” he would be taking the “contrarian view” that the controversial transfer of the US embassy to Jerusalem “can actually help advance an end to the conflict.”

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