Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his aides have been “active partners” working in “total coordination” with US President Donald Trump and his administration in the lead-up to the president’s anticipated speech Wednesday recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and declaring his intended relocation of the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, Israel’s Hadashot TV said Tuesday evening.
Trump’s phone call to Netanyahu on Tuesday updating him on his scheduled Wednesday speech was not their first recent conversation on the highly sensitive subject, Hadashot news reported. Netanyahu’s team has been “encouraging, supporting, [and] reassuring” the Trump team over the likely fallout, the TV report said, “and this total coordination came while the Palestinians knew nothing about this move” until very recently. “They’d heard nothing about it.”
Channel 10, meanwhile, said Netanyahu and Israel’s Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer have been privy to the details of what Trump is planning, and had played a key role.
Trump “accepted the Israeli argument that said, Let’s separate the issue of Jerusalem recognition from the peace process. Prime Minister Netanyahu and Ambassador Dermer succeeded in convincing President Trump that this is a case of righting a historical wrong,” Channel 10 reported. (In fact, candidate Trump, while on the presidential campaign trail, pledged to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.)
In response to a threat by Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to consider severing ties with Israel over Trump’s expected recognition, Israel’s Minister of Intelligence Yisrael Katz declared earlier Tuesday: “There is no more historically justified and correct step now than recognizing Jerusalem, which has been the capital of the Jewish people for the past 3,000 years, as the capital of Israel.”
Overall, however, the TV reports said Netanyahu has asked his ministers not to speak out on the issue ahead of the Trump speech on Wednesday. And the Channel 10 report said Trump specifically asked Netanyahu to “keep a low profile” and see to it that Israel’s ministers do not demonstrably “rejoice” over the move, for fear of exacerbating a highly tense situation.
Netanyahu did not make any public comments on the issue on Tuesday.
Israeli TV reports have for days been predicting that Trump would make a declaration recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and announce he intends to move the embassy. Despite ongoing Arab and international efforts to persuade Trump to change his mind ahead of his Wednesday speech, Hadashot news on Tuesday evening asserted definitively that “it’s done.”
US officials said Tuesday they expected Trump would make a generic statement about Jerusalem’s status as the “capital of Israel.” They said they did not expect the president to use the phrase “undivided capital,” which would imply Israeli sovereignty over East Jerusalem, which is not recognized by the United Nations.
The Hadashot TV report said it was expected Trump would also highlight Jerusalem’s importance to all monotheistic faiths, and stress his desire to advance Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts — an ambition that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has warned this week will be dashed if Trump goes ahead with his planned speech.
The TV reports said Trump would likely sign the waiver delaying for another six months a US legal requirement to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem, but that this was a strictly logistical and budgetary issue, since the logistics for moving the embassy would take months. US officials said Trump would likely give wide latitude to David Friedman, the US Ambassador to Israel, to make a determination on when such a move would be appropriate. Friedman has spoken in favor of the relocation, and said before he was confirmed as ambassador that he looked forward to working from Jerusalem.
The Israeli army on Tuesday evening raised its alert ahead of possible violence in Jerusalem and the West Bank. The US told government employees to avoid Jerusalem’s Old City and the West Bank until further notice in anticipation of an outbreak of Palestinian violence over Trump’s upcoming announcements on Jerusalem.