Trump mulling over Jerusalem embassy move: Tillerson

Nick Mcbride
May 20, 2017

Israel has dismissed concerns in the United States over plans to relocate the USA embassy to Jerusalem, saying the contentious issue would advance the peace process with the Palestinians, not harm it.

A Fox News correspondent had claimed the opposite: that the Israeli leader asked the United States president not to move the embassy.

The report led Netanyahu to issue an angry rebuttal.

Earlier on "Meet the Press", Tillerson had said President Donald Trump would consider the move, but wanted to first understand the issue.

"It would advance it by amending a historic wrong and by shattering the Palestinian fantasy that Jerusalem isn't the capital of Israel", he said in a statement.

Palestinians are seeking to create an independent state in the territories of the West Bank, East Jerusalem al-Quds and the Gaza Strip, with East al-Quds as the capital.

The rival claims to Jerusalem lie at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and no countries now have their embassies there, instead basing them in Israel's commercial capital Tel Aviv.

The comment was in response to an Israeli request for Prime Minister Netanyahu to join President Trump when he visits the Western Wall.

"This is the clear and consistent position of Prime Minister Netanyahu, which he reiterated today", the statement concluded.

Friedman arrived Monday and immediately visited the Western Wall, praying there and kissing the sacred site.

Israel's Channel Two reported that Israeli officials offering to help plan the event were told by American counterparts it was not their remit.

Trump is to begin his first trip overseas as president on May 19, visiting Saudi Arabia, Israel (and the West Bank city of Bethlehem), and the Vatican before jetting to a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation meeting in Brussels and the G7 summit in Sicily.

As the Times of Israel notes, the visit "would likely be interpreted by some as akin to an American recognition of Israeli sovereignty over East Jerusalem". He will officially take up his role when he presents his credentials to Israeli President Reuven Rivlin on Tuesday.

He also later met with Netanyahu.

He also surrounded himself with a core of advisers with strong ties to the West Bank settlement movement, including his ambassador, David Friedman.

A bankruptcy lawyer by profession, Friedman has no previous diplomatic experience.

Two of the Israeli leader's leading political rivals, far-right education minister Naftali Bennett and centre-right opposition politician Yair Lapid, both insisted this week that the embassy should be moved to Jerusalem.

"We welcome this new development and we are optimistic about the upcoming visit of the U.S. president to Palestine, where he is expected to visit Bethlehem and meet with President Abbas".

Other reports by VgToday

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