Netanyahu at embassy ceremony: President Trump is making history

Sixty-nine years after Israel declared Jerusalem as its capital, and 23 years after the US Congress passed a law mandating that Washington move its embassy there, the US will formally open its embassy in the city on Monday at 4 p.m., in a move Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared as “momentous.”

“President Donald Trump is making history,” Netanyahu said Sunday at a reception in the Foreign Ministry attended by Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who are leading the US delegation to the embassy opening. “We are deeply grateful, and our people will be eternally grateful, for his bold decision.”

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Netanyahu said Trump’s decision reflects a simple truth: “Jerusalem has been the capital of the Jewish people for the past 3,000 years, has been the capital of our state for the past 70 years, and will remain our capital for all time.

“Thank you President Trump for your bold decision! Thank you for making the alliance between Israel and the United States stronger than ever!” In a sign that not all in the world agreed with that “simple truth,” of the 86 embassies invited to the reception at the embassy – attended by some 800 people – only 33 countries sent delegations. In addition, while four US senators are on hand for the embassy opening, as are 10 congressmen, they are all Republicans.

Of the 28 EU countries, only four sent representatives to the ministry reception: Austria, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Romania.

Austrian ambassador Martin Weiss, acknowledging that by showing up at the event he was stepping out of line with most of the EU, said his presence was a sign that Austria recognizes that this is a day of joy for Israelis. He added, however, that Austria does not currently have any plans to move its embassy.

Netanyahu, however, called on all countries to do just that.

“Move your embassies to Jerusalem because it is the right thing to do, move your embassies to Jerusalem because it advances peace,” he said, “because you can’t base peace on a foundation of lies, you base peace on a foundation of truth.”

He said the truth is that not only has Jerusalem been the capital of the Jewish people since the 1st millennium BCE, and the capital of the state since its inception, “the truth is that under any peace agreement that you could possibly imagine, Jerusalem will remain Israel’s capital.”

According to Netanyahu, it “took a President Trump” to enunciate this “simple basic truth,” and said that once it is out there, it will spread.

Highlighting that Guatemala is scheduled to move its embassy in two days, followed by Paraguay, Netanyahu said “other nations are in the process” of doing the same, though he would not specify the names of those countries.

“That is a state secret,” he said, and then joked – in reference to Israel’s recent uncovering of the Iranian nuclear archives – “We don’t reveal our state secrets. Sometimes we reveal others’ state secrets.”

In addition to Kushner and Ivanka Trump, the US delegation also included Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan and Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt.

Netanyahu met with Kushner, Greenblatt and US Ambassador David Friedman before the ceremony, for talks that reportedly dealt with the possible timing of the roll-out of the peace plan being formulated by the Trump team, as well as the ramifications of the US withdrawal from the Iranian nuclear deal.

Netanyahu referred to that step during his comments, saying another ingredient to achieving peace – besides basing it on a foundation of truth – is to confront the enemy of peace, “and I thank President Trump for his decision to confront Iran, rather than to appease it.”

The prime minister said that walking away form the deal means “the world’s greatest sponsor of terrorism is no longer on a glide path to obtaining an arsenal of nuclear weapons.”

Addressing those “sitting in European capitals” who were opposed to Trump’s move, he said those sitting in the capitals of the Middle East – “in Jerusalem, Riyadh and elsewhere” – have seen “the disastrous consequences of the Iran deal, and so when President Trump decides to pull out the deal, he is doing a good thing for the region, the United States and the world.”

Netanyahu, who seemed buoyant during his speech, referred to , saying “Israel is a rising power in the world: in cyber, IT, water, judo, in singing.

“Those who didn’t want Jerusalem in the Eurovision, are getting the Eurovision in Jerusalem,” he said in reference to next year’s contest now scheduled to be held in Israel as a result of Netta Barzilai’s victory.

The State Department’s Sullivan said that while May 14 – the day in the Gregorian calendar when Israel was born – is always worthy of recognition, “it is only fitting that we add a new milestone to this historic day. All of us here understand that the opening of the new embassy tomorrow is a long overdue recognition of reality,” he said. “It is also essential to charting a road map for peace in the region.”

Mnuchin, who said the US had no greater partner than Israel, added that there is no more important area of cooperation than the two countries’ fight against terrorism.

“As Treasury secretary, I am committed to using our financial tools to the maximum amount possible to cut off terrorists and regimes from the financial system and to disrupt their access to resources until they change their behavior,” he said.

Mnuchin, who will have a leading role in reimplementing sanctions against Iran following the US’s departure from the deal, said the Islamic Republic’s “destabilizing actions must no longer be enabled.

They threaten the national security of other countries, the region and the world.”

To mark Jerusalem Day, meanwhile, Netanyahu convened Sunday’s weekly cabinet meeting at the Bible Lands Museum. “Jerusalem above and Jerusalem below, we are bound to this city,” he said. “It is part of our soul, part of our experience, on both our material and spiritual sides.”