Netanyahu Says Trump's Decision Not to Move U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem Delays Peace With Palestinians

Palestinian ambassador to the U.S. says Trump's decision to delay embassy move to Jerusalem 'gives peace a chance'

U.S. President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu embrace during Trump's visit to Israel, May 2017.
MANDEL NGAN/AFP

U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to postpone moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem delays reaching a peace agreement with the Palestinians, the office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday.

"Israel's consistent policy is that the American embassy like other embassies should be in Jerusalem, our eternal capital," The Prime Minister's Office said in a statement. "Keeping embassies out of Jerusalem postpones peace because it contributes to the Palestinian illusion that the Jewish people and their country have no connection to Jerusalem."

President Mahmoud Abbas's Spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh issued a statement saying that Trump's decision not to move the embassy is a positive move that promotes peace. According to Abu Rudeineh, the decision shows that the Trump administration was serious in its efforts to bring about peace and build bridges of trust after the summit in Riyadh. 

"We are ready to continue cooperating with President Trump and his administration to achieve a fair and sustainable peace," he said.

Earlier on Thursday, Trump went back on his election promise to move the Israeli embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, by signing a presidential order which postpones the move, after former U.S. President Barack Obama's presidential order from six months ago was set to expire on the same day.

Palestinian Ambassador to the U.S. Hussam Zomlot also issued a statement following Trump's signing of the order, saying that the decision not to move the embassy "gives peace a chance."

"This is in line with the long-held U.S. policy and the international consensus and it gives peace a chance," Zomlot's statement said of Trump's decision not to move the embassy. "We are ready to start the consultation process with the U.S. administration. We are serious and genuine about achieving a just and lasting peace."

Striking a similar tone to the statement released by Netanyahu’s office, Education Minister Naftali Bennett (Habayit Hayehudi) said the delay complicates reaching a peace deal because it “nurtures false hope.”

“There is no peace based on the splitting of Jerusalem,” Bennett said in a statement. “The delaying of the embassy move, especially at this point, makes achieving a real peace more difficult because it nurtures false hope in the Palestinians that Jerusalem will be split, something that will never happen. Only the full recognition of a united Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty will put an end to the illusions and will pave a path to a true peace with our neighbors.”   

Meretz chairwoman Zehava Galon said that the choice not to move the embassy was the correct decision to make at this time. “The White House is signaling to the government that Trump is trying to make a move with the Palestinians. The transfer of the embassy was liable to blow the matter up before it is clear what it [the move] even is.”

“West Jerusalem is the capital of Israel,” she said, “and will continue to be so with or without the presence of the American embassy. The transfer of the embassy, as Israel wants, will not consolidate Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem, and if it already had, it might have forced other countries in the world to recognize a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital.”

Commenting on the decision, lawmaker Ksenia Svetlova (Zionist Union) said, “Whoever thought that Trump was a messiah will now think he is a false Messiah. Anyone who thought he was a populist who makes promises for electoral gain will continue to do so. The place of the American embassy, like all other embassies, is in Jerusalem. However, their transfer must be made while taking into account all regional considerations. It must be demanded that it be done within the framework of the political settlement toward which the president is currently working.”

Minister of Environmental Protection Zeev Elkin (Likud) expressed his disapointment with Trump’s decision and pointed to the fact that the U.S. president, who promised otherwise during the campaign, had come back on his word.

“The place of all embassies is in our capital, Jerusalem. I call upon the American president to announce the transfer of the embassy on the next occasion [in six months' time], during Jubilee Year of the unification of the city,” Elkin said. “The transfer of the American Embassy to Jerusalem and the recognition of a united Jerusalem as the capital of Israel as determined by the Congress would not have harmed the chances of a real peace with the Palestinians but rather, would have made it clear to the Palestinians what the absolute majority of Israeli citizens understand: Israel will never agree to the division of Jerusalem,” he added.

Lawmaker Yariv Levin (Likud) said that despite Trump being a true friend of Israel, his decision not to move the embassy is a great disappointment. “This is not the way to make America great again,” Levin asserted.