WASHINGTON (JTA) — In remarks dovetailing with policies embraced by President-elect Donald Trump, Israeli U.S. Ambassador Ron Dermer delivered a forceful plea for the United States to move the embassy to Jerusalem.
“Israel hopes that next year when the new American ambassador to Israel lights the menorah in his embassy, he will light it in the same city where the Maccabees lit it 2,200 years ago,” Dermer said at the annual embassy Hanukkah party on Tuesday evening.
Trump said during the campaign he would move the embassy to Jerusalem, and his nominee for ambassador to Jerusalem, David Friedman, said in last week’s Trump transition team announcement of his nomination that he hoped to work from a Jerusalem embassy. The transition team has said it does not yet have a timeline of when the move will take place.
Moving the embassy to Jerusalem “should have happened a long time ago,” Dermer said at the event.
Congress recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in 1995 and mandated the move to Jerusalem, but successive U.S. presidents have exercised a waiver in the law that allows them to delay the move for national security reasons. U.S. security and diplomatic officials say that moving the embassy would stir anti-American violence in the Middle East and elsewhere.
Dermer rejected that premise, saying that moving the embassy would bolster the cause of peace, as it would strike a blow against claims that Israel was an unnatural presence in the region.
“It would be a strong message against the delegitimization of Israel,” he said.
Dermer also thanked the outgoing Obama administration for the security assistance it had delivered to Israel.