In a highly unusual move, the Prime Minister’s Office on Monday published sections of the summary report of the February 15 meeting between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. President Donald Trump, from which it emerges that Netanyahu called on Trump to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, stressing that this wouldn’t cause a security escalation.
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“The prime minister was asked about moving the embassy and explained that this wouldn’t cause bloodshed in the region as people were telling him [Trump],” says the report, which was written by then-Acting National Security Adviser Jacob Nagel. The report says that the conversation about moving the embassy took place during lunch at the White House, which was attended by Netanyahu, Trump and advisers on both sides. Nagel writes that the prime minister made it clear he supported moving the embassy.
The Prime Minister’s Office also published parts of the summary report of another meeting, one that took place on January 16, four days before Trump’s inauguration, between Israel’s ambassador to the United States and Mike Flynn, who was then slated to be White House national security adviser but who was fired in February.
“The ambassador explained why moving the embassy would help advance peace and not the opposite,” the report quoted by the Prime Minister’s Office said. “It will convey a message that we are in Jerusalem to stay. Moving the embassy will force the other side to cope with the lie they are formulating that Israel has no connection to Jerusalem, and will lead them to understand that Israel will remain forever and that its capital will be Jerusalem.”
Jacob Nagel told Haaretz that even before Trump's inauguration, Netanyahu stressed in meetings in Jerusalem that every discussion with the White House on the embassy question should make it clear that Israel's stance is that the embassy should be relocated.
Nagel added that in two meetings with Flynn, held between Trump's election win and the inauguration – in December and January – he and the other Israeli officials in attendance made the Israeli stance clear, while saying that it's up to the U.S. administration to decided when and how to relocate the embassy.
The background for the Prime Minister’s Office’s exceptional move was a report by Fox News that Netanyahu had asked Trump not to move the American Embassy to Jerusalem at this stage. “The report on Fox News is a lie,” the Prime Minister’s Office said. “Netanyahu supports moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem. This is Prime Minister Netanyahu’s clear and consistent position, which was also stated today.”
Another reason for the unusual release is the criticism of Netanyahu coming from Habayit Hayehudi chairman Education Minister Naftali Bennett, who in a series of public statements and tweets has hinted that the reason the United States isn’t moving the embassy to Jerusalem is Netanyahu’s position on the issue.
During a meeting of the Habayit Hayehudi MKs in the Knesset Monday, Bennett reportedly said that during the campaign Trump had more than once lauded Jewish settlement throughout the Land of Israel and had also said he would move the embassy to Jerusalem. “Since being elected and to date, there has been a change in the spirit of things, and the sources of that change aren’t entirely clear,” Bennett said.
On Sunday, Bennett called on Netanyahu to clarify to Trump that Israel expects the United States to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and to recognize “United Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty.”
Bennett added that moving the American Embassy to Jerusalem would strengthen Israel and enhance the chances for real peace. “Any agreement based on dividing Jerusalem is doomed to fail,” Bennett wrote on Twitter.