‘Several countries’ in talks with Israel on moving embassies, PM says

Netanyahu tells CNN a number of nations are ‘seriously considering’ recognizing Jerusalem in wake of US declaration

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to CNN on December 22, 2017 (YouTube screenshot)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to CNN on December 22, 2017 (YouTube screenshot)

Israel is in contact with several countries “seriously considering” following in the footsteps of the US, recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moving their embassies to Jerusalem, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told CNN in an interview broadcast Friday.

“We’re now talking to several countries who are seriously considering saying exactly the same thing as the United States and moving their embassies to Jerusalem,” he said.

Asked to name the countries in question, Netanyahu demurred. “I could tell you that but I won’t because I want it to succeed, and I think there’s a good chance it will.”

Asked about the significance of US President Donald Trump’s declaration on December 6, Netanyahu said, “I think what it does is finally recognize a historical truth.

“Jerusalem has been the capital of Israel for 3,000 years from the time of King David. It has been the capital of the state of Israel for 70 years, and it’s about time that the United States said — and I’m glad they said it — ‘This is the capital and we recognize it,’ and I think that’s going to be followed by other countries.”

On Friday the head of Romania’s parliament, Liviu Dragnea, said the European nation should “seriously consider” moving its embassy to Jerusalem.

Czech Republic President Milos Zeman has said his country should move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, but the country’s prime minister, Andrej Babis, has since said he has no immediate plans to do so.

Questioned on the future of Jerusalem under a future peace deal, Netanyahu said the city should “remain a united, safe and secure city,” noting that “in the Middle East, we’re just about the only ones that guarantee… freedom of worship for Jews, Christians and Muslims alike.”

But he said he was not averse to negotiations. “That’s my vision of Jerusalem. Palestinians may have a different vision. They should come and negotiate. They say they won’t negotiate. They’re walking away from the negotiation table, again. You want peace, go to negotiate peace.”

Netanyahu spoke a day after the United Nations General Assembly overwhelmingly passed a resolution condemning the Trump administration’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and calling on countries not to move their diplomatic missions to the city.

A total of 128 countries voted in favor of the text, with 9 voting against, 35 abstaining and 21 not showing up to vote.

Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki speaking at a UN General Assembly session debating the status of Jerusalem, December 21, 2017 (screen shot)

Netanyahu on Thursday dismissed the UN, and said Israel was heartened by the large number of countries who did not vote for the resolution and stood by “the truth.”

“Israel rejects the UN decision and, in parallel, expresses satisfaction at the large number of states that did not vote for the resolution, countries that Prime Minister Netanyahu has visited in Europe, Africa and Latin America,” a statement from Netanyahu’s office said after the vote.

“Israel is grateful to President Trump for his steadfast position on Jerusalem, and thanks the nations that voted with Israel, and with the truth.”

In an English-language video on Facebook, Netanyahu said, “Israel completely rejects this preposterous resolution. Jerusalem is our capital — always was, always will be. But I do appreciate the fact that a growing number of countries refuse to participate in this theater of the absurd.”

US envoy to the UN Nikki Haley tweeted after the vote that “65 countries refused to condemn the United States” — totaling the no votes, the abstentions and the no-shows.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry said the number of countries that either opposed, abstained or were absent from the vote was “hugely significant.” The vote shows that “not the whole world is part of this show,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Emmanuel Nachshon said.

Recalling previous General Assembly and Security Council resolutions, the text passed Thursday expressed “deep regret at recent decisions concerning the status of Jerusalem,” referring to Trump’s December 6 decision.

The resolution also affirmed that “any decisions and actions which purport to have altered, the character, status or demographic composition of the Holy City of Jerusalem have no legal effect, are null and void and must be rescinded in compliance with relevant resolutions of the Security Council, and in this regard, calls upon all States to refrain from the establishment of diplomatic missions in the Holy City of Jerusalem.”

Raphael Ahren and agencies contributed to this report.

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