Israel's Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer on Tuesday called on the incoming Trump Administration to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Addressing the Embassy of Israel's annual Hanukkah reception, Dermer said that such a move would be "a great step forward toward peace."
Dermer's remarks come several days after Trump's appointment of David Friedman as the next U.S. ambassador to Israel. In his statement announcing the appointment, Friedman noted that one of his tasks will be to move the embassy to Jerusalem.
While Dermer, considered one of the closest people to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, did not directly refer to the incoming administration and did not mention Trump by name, he is the most significant Israeli official to call on the president-elect to realize his campaign promise to move the embassy.
"I hope that next year, the U.S. ambassador to Israel lights the menorah in his embassy in Jerusalem, where the Maccabees lit it 2,200 years ago," Dermer said, adding that the embassy's presence in Tel Aviv and not Jerusalem is the equivalent of Israel's embassy being located in New York and not Washington. He said that the embassy's move to Jerusalem needed to happen many years ago, and that such a move would serve as "a strong message against the delegitimization of Israel."
On Tuesday, Haaretz reported on a December 1 meeting between Michael Flynn, Trump's designated national security adviser, and Mossad chief Yossi Cohen and Israel's acting National Security Adviser Jacob Nagel. During the meeting, Flynn said that Trump is serious about moving the embassy to Jerusalem and intends to do so.
During his visit to Azerbaijan earlier this month, Netanyahu said that Trump's idea of moving the embassy to Israel is "great." The prime minister's remarks came after senior Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway noted that the president-elect is determined to move the embassy after taking office on January 20. "This is a very big priority for this president-elect, he made it very clear during the campaign," Conway said, adding that she has heard him reiterate the point on several occasions during private meetings.
Trump has promised on numerous occasions, including personally to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a meeting in late September, to quickly move the embassy to Jerusalem. According to a Trump campaign press release, Trump told Netanyahu that if elected, "a Trump administration would finally accept the long-standing Congressional mandate to recognize Jerusalem as the undivided capital of the State of Israel."
Trump also made this point to Netanyahu during a September meeting with Netanyahu in New York and Jason Greenblatt, Trump's adviser on Israeli affairs, repeated these statements in an interview with Army Radio, though Trump later seemed to attempt to walk back his statements.
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