Published: Fri, May 19, 2017
USA | By Kelli Rowe

Disputes Arise between Netanyahu, Trump over Relocation of US Embassy


Tel Aviv - The plan to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Western Jerusalem has turned into a public dispute between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the US Administration.

"The president is being very careful to understand how such a decision would impact the peace process", Tillerson on NBC's "Meet the Press" Sunday.

Netanyahu responded by saying that moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem would not harm the peace process, but would do the opposite.

The statement from Mr. Netanyahu's office concluded: "This is the clear and consistent position of Prime Minister Netanyahu, which he reiterated today".

Israel has long pressed nations to move their embassies to Jerusalem; Palestinians, and much of the global community, view east Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state.

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Israel's Channel 2 reported that during a planning meeting between United States and Israeli officials, the Israelis were told that Trump's visit to the Western Wall, in annexed East Jerusalem, was private.

Top officials at the State Department, Department of Defense and the U.S. intelligence community are urging the White House not to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital, warning that such a decision would be harmful to the peace process and carry broader regional risks, a senior administration official and several USA officials told CNN.

Palestinians see east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state, while Israel considers the entire city to be its undivided capital.

Noting Trump's push for Middle East peace - the president meets Wednesday with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and is reported to be headed to Israel later this month - McMaster called on those present to back the initiative.

However, Israel's Channel 2 reports that while planning the visit, a Trump aide questioned Israel's control over the holy site, located in disputed East Jerusalem. The area, captured by Israel in 1967, is not sovereign Israeli territory and Palestinians there are not Israeli citizens and do not have the right to vote.

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Both Netanyahu and Abbas have visited the White House since Trump's inauguration, with the US President vowing to work as a "mediator" for Mideast peace.

Friedman, who owns an apartment in Jerusalem, is expected to live in the US ambassador's official residence in the Tel Aviv suburb of Herziliya. Instead of moving the embassy to Israel's capital of Jerusalem (almost every overseas American embassy is in the host country's capital), Tillerson floated the potential move as a bargaining chip as part of a peace deal with the Palestinians.

On Monday, Friedman, an Orthodox Jew, arrived in Israel to take up his new post and traveled straight to the Western Wall to pray. Trump will visit Saudi Arabia, the location of the two holiest sites in Islam, Jerusalem which houses shrines sacred to Christianity, Islam and Judaism and the Vatican, the seat of the Catholic Church.

The Prime Minister's Office also released a summary of a meeting between Israeli Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer and National Security Advisor-designate Michael Flynn on 16 January.

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