JERUSALEM (JTA) — Benjamin Netanyahu said the U.S. Embassy should be relocated to Jerusalem after the head of a Republican group in Israel said the prime minister was holding up the move.
“Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and it is proper that not only should the American embassy be here, but all embassies should come here, and I believe that over time most of them will indeed come here, to Jerusalem,” Netanyahu said Sunday morning at the start of the weekly Cabinet meeting.
“I would like to note again that our fundamental alliance is with the United States. There is no substitute for this alliance. Our relations are tight and getting tighter and I would like to take this opportunity to make it unequivocally clear that our position has always been, and will always be, that the U.S. embassy needs to be here, in Jerusalem.”
Netanyahu appeared to be responding to an Army Radio interview earlier Sunday in which Marc Zell, the co-chairman of Republicans Overseas Israel, suggested the holdup on moving the embassy coming from Jerusalem not Washington.
“The minute Jerusalem gives the green light, the embassy will definitely be moved to Jerusalem,” Zell told Army Radio on Sunday. “We need to shutter the consulate general, along with all of its implications, and put up a sign for the Jerusalem Embassy.”
Zell was doubling down on an interview with him published Saturday night in Haaretz in which he said: “Trump has been unequivocally in favor of moving the embassy and remains so” but “he is proceeding cautiously because of concerns raised by Israeli officials … Trump has repeatedly stated that his administration will respect the wishes of the Israeli government and people on issues concerning the Land of Israel in general and Jerusalem in particular.”
Zell also noted in both interviews that the United States refrained from criticizing Israel for the announcement last week of the approval of the construction of at least 2,500 housing units in communities in Judea and Samaria, or the West Bank.
Zell later on Sunday told The Times of Israel that his remarks regarding the embassy move were based on his own personal assessment, and not on anything official.
“I didn’t say that I know, it’s my assessment in light of all of the information that I have,” he said. “It’s the one possible explanation why President Trump is moving slowly on this matter.”
When asked Thursday in an interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity about moving the embassy to Jerusalem, which Trump pledged to do during the campaign, the president said, “I don’t want to talk about it yet. It’s too early.”
In 1995, Congress passed a law requiring the embassy move but allowing presidents to issue a waiver every since months to avoid doing so. Trump would need to issue a waiver by the end of May or move the embassy.