Israel expects other countries to follow US lead in recognizing Jerusalem as capital

JTA

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaking at the International Conference on Digital Diplomacy at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, Dec. 7, 2017. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

JERUSALEM (JTA) — After the United States recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and moved toward relocating its embassy to here, Israel said it expects other countries to follow suit.

Speaking at Israel’s Foreign Ministry Thursday, a day after the historic shift in U.S. policy, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he was in contact with countries interested in such actions.

“We are holding contacts with other countries who will also recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. I have no doubt than when the U.S. Embassy will move there, and even before that, many embassies will relocate to Jerusalem, he said Thursday at a diplomatic conference at the Foreign Ministry. “It’s about time.”

Speaking on condition of anonymity, Israeli officials said Thursday that they expect Czech President Milos Zeman to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital later in the day. The officials said both the Czech Republic and the Phillipines were eager to move their embassies to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv.

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On Wednesday, the Czech Republic’s Foreign Ministry said it considers Jerusalem to be “in fact the capital of Israel in the borders of the demarcation line from 1967,” meaning only the city’s west. But it said it would not move the embassy prior to a negotiated Israeli-Palestinian deal. Although the Czech parliament already recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital earlier this year, the embassy of the Central European nation has remained in the Tel Aviv area.

Also Wednesday, Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte sent a message to Israel that he wanted to move his country’s embassy to Jerusalem, Israel’s Kan public broadcaster reported.

Jerusalem reportedly anticipates that Hungary may move its embassy to Jerusalem as well. According to The Times of Israel, citing unnamed European sources, Budapest blocked a joint European Union statement that would have opposed the historic change in the U.S. position.

U.S. President Donald Trump signed a proclamation at the White House Wednesday saying the United States saw Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and directing the State Department to start planning an embassy in the city. Trump said the decision should not impinge on his administration’s efforts to bring about a peace agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians. He said the proclamation does not presume the outcome of Jerusalem’s status in negotiations and he urged continued Muslim administration of the Temple Mount, a site holy to both Jews and Muslims and a flashpoint in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Hours later, Trump signed a waiver putting off moving the embassy by another six months.

Netanyahu, who has said repeatedly that Jerusalem will remain undivided as Israel’s capital, on Wednesday welcomed Trump’s announcement. Meanwhile, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas declared that the United States can no longer act as a mediator between Israel and the Palestinians, world leaders expressed dismay, and Arab rulers warned of disastrous consequences.

Republican members of Congress on Wednesday overwhelmingly expressed support for the decision of the president from their party, while Democrats and American Jewish groups were divided.

On Thursday, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh called for Palestinians to launch a new intifada, and the Israeli army braced for violence by redeploying troops to the West Bank and putting more soldiers on standby.

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