US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and to direct the State Department to move the embassy there is a “genuine milestone” in the storied and “glorious history” of the city, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday.
Netanyahu, who said nothing in recent days amid the anticipation of what indeed Trump would announce, issued a statement minutes after the president’s address, saying “we’re profoundly grateful for the president for his courageous and just decision.”
This move, Netanyahu said, “reflects the president’s commitment to an ancient but enduring truth, to fulfilling his promises and to advancing peace.”
Netanyahu said the move was an important step toward peace because “there is no peace that doesn’t include Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.”
The prime minister said he shared Trump’s commitment toward working for peace and said there would be “no change whatsoever to the status quo at the holy sites.” He called on other countries around the world to now follow America’s lead.
Israel’s ambassador to the US, Ron Dermer, who has energetically lobbied for the move in Washington, posted a tweet immediately after the speech. He thanked Trump for the move, saying the president was “taking an honored place alongside President Truman who recognized the State of Israel 70 years ago.”
President Reuven Rivlin said: “There is no more fitting or beautiful gift as we approach 70 years of the State of Israel’s independence.”
Rivlin said the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and the relocation of all embassies to the city “is a landmark in the recognition of the right of the Jewish people to our land, and a milestone on our road to peace – peace for all the residents of Jerusalem, and the whole region.”
While Netanyahu waited until after Trump made his speech to comment on the move, a few ministers praised the step before it was officially announced, but after reports were published regarding what the president would say.
Education Minister Naftali Bennett, a member of the security cabinet, said at the Jerusalem Post Diplomatic Conference on Wednesday that Trump’s decision would be “a very good step forward, but a natural one.” He added that long before Paris and London became capitals in Europe, King David founded his capital in Jerusalem.
Bennett said the decision showed that Israel’s “strategic patience paid off,” adding that “the world respects strong countries who believe in themselves, and look down on countries willing to give up their homeland.”
As to threats coming from the Palestinians, Turkey and Iran, Bennett said that “when I see [Iranian leader Ayatollah Ali] Khamenei condemning Israel, I know we are doing something right. Nothing good goes easy.”
When asked if he was worried that Trump would ask Israel to pay a price for the recognition, Bennett replied: “When you do the right thing, there ought not to be a price. We have conditioned ourselves that when the right thing is done, there must be a price, and it’s not true.”
Transportation and Intelligence Minister Israel Katz, also a member of the security cabinet, called the day a “historical” one.
Also speaking at the conference, Katz said Palestinian opposition to the move reflected “an unwillingness to recognize the right of the Jewish people to a state of their own, exactly like 70 years ago. I say clearly that whoever does not recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel does not recognize the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state.”
Katz said that recognition of Jerusalem “will make it clear to the Palestinians that they must accept the existence of Israel, and that it is time to conduct real negotiations for peace with Israel. We expect the international community to support President Trump’s decision.”