Netanyahu Welcomes Trump's Recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's Capital

Prime minister says any peace agreement with the Palestinians must include Jerusalem as capital of State of Israel ■ He reaffirms that there will be no change in the status of the city's holy sites

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the Jerusalem Post Diplomatic Conference in Jerusalemm December 6, 2017.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the Jerusalem Post Diplomatic Conference in Jerusalemm December 6, 2017. RONEN ZVULUN/REUTERS

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lauded U.S. President Donald Trump's official recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital on Wednesday, calling it a "historic day."

Netanyahu said that any peace agreement with the Palestinians must include Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and added that there will be no change in the status of the city's holy sites.

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's remarks on U.S. President Trump's statement

"Jerusalem has been the focus of our hopes, our dreams, our prayers for three millennia," said the prime minister. "Jerusalem has been the capital of the Jewish people for 3,000 years. ... So it's rare to be able to speak of new and genuine milestones in the glorious history of this city, yet today's pronouncement by President Trump is such an occasion."

Trump called the move to recognize Jerusalem "a long overdue step to advance the peace process" between Israel and the Palestinians. He also said that the U.S. would support a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict if agreed upon by both sides.

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"My announcement today marks the beginning of a new approach to conflict between Israel and the Palestinians," he said during his short speech.

"The president's decision is an important step towards peace, for there is no peace that doesn't include Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel," said Netanyahu.

"I share President Trump's commitment to advancing peace between Israel and all of our neighbors, including the Palestinians," he added. "And we will continue to work with the president and his team to make that dream of peace come true.

"I call on all countries that seek peace to join the United States in recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital and to move their embassies here. I also want to make clear: There will be no change whatsoever to the status quo at the holy sites."

"Israel will always ensure freedom of worship for Jews, Christians, and Muslims alike," said Netanyahu. "President Trump, thank you for today's historic decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital."

President Reuven Rivlin said Trump's gesture was a special gift to Israel as it approached its 70th anniversary.

"Fifty years after the reunification of the city, the time has come to bring tranquility to Jerusalem and to instill hope in the Israeli capital, to which people make pilgrimage from all over the world," he said.

"For thousands of years the Jewish people turned their eyes toward Jerusalem, prayed to it and dreamed of it," Rivlin continued. "Recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and the move of all the embassies to it is a seminal milestone for the right of the Jewish people to its land and for our path to peace – peace for all the residents of Jerusalem and the entire region."

In a video posted on Twitter, Education Minister Naftali Bennett thanked Trump for making the United States "the first nation to recognize united Jerusalem as the eternal capital of the Jewish people, the capital of Israel."

"You also faced huge pressures but you did it. I call upon the rest of the world leaders to follow suit," he said. "Jerusalem has been the Jewish capital for 3,020 years and will remain so for eternity."

Calling Trump's announcement "a combination of ignorance and arrogance, with complete disregard for its implications," the chairman of the Joint List, lawmaker Ayman Odeh, said in a statement that "Trump is not interested in the fate of Israelis, and certainly not in the fate of Palestinians."

"Today Trump threw a match on the Middle East, and the price will be paid by both nations," added Odeh.