Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is “an important step towards peace.”
Netanyahu in a statement issued Wednesday moments after President Donald Trump made the announcement from the White House called it a “historic day.” He said the Jewish people and the Jewish state will be “forever grateful” to the United States for the recognition of Jerusalem.
“It’s been the capital of Israel for nearly 70 years. Jerusalem has been the focus of our hopes, our dreams, our prayers for three millennia. Jerusalem has been the capital of the Jewish people for 3,000 years,” Netanyahu said.
The Israeli leader said the announcement was a “new and genuine milestone in the glorious history of this city.”
Netanyahu also said it is “an important step towards peace, for there is no peace that doesn’t include Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel,” while reiterating that Israel is committed to advancing peace with the Palestinians.
He called on others to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move their embassies there. Trump in his proclamation directed the State Department to start planning an embassy in Jerusalem, but for now it will stay in Tel Aviv.
Netanyahu also asserted that there would be no change in the “status quo” of Jerusalem holy sites.
“Israel will always ensure freedom of worship for Jews, Christians and Muslims alike,” he said.
President Trump signed a proclamation recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, but emphasized that he was not pre-empting negotiations over the final status of the city.
“It is time to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel,” Trump said in a televised address from the White House, with Vice President Mike Pence standing behind him.
“While previous presidents have made this a major campaign promise, they failed to deliver. I today am delivering.”
Trump in the proclamation also directed the State Department to start planning an embassy in Jerusalem. The U.S. Embassy is currently in Tel Aviv.
The president said the decision should not impinge on efforts led by his son-in-law and adviser, Jared Kushner, to bring about a peace agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Trump said the proclamation does not presume the outcome of Jerusalem’s status in negotiations.
“We are not taking a position on any final status issues, including the boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem,” he said.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who welcomed the announcement, has said repeatedly that Jerusalem will remain undivided as Israel’s capital. Palestinian officials hope to establish the capital of a Palestinian state in the city’s eastern sector.
Trump also made a point of urging the preservation of the status quo on the Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism and the third holiest in Islam. The controlling authority on the Temple Mount now is the Muslim Waqf, and Jews are forbidden to pray on the site.