Netanyahu assesses US embassy will move to Jerusalem 'within a year’
AP Photo/Eitan Hess-Ashkenazi, File
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday that “according to a firm assessment” the United States’ controversial pledge to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to the disputed city of Jerusalem will happen “within a year.”
Speaking to reporters on a flight from New Delhi to Gujarat, where he will tour the home state of his Indian counterpart Nerandra Modi later Wednesday, Netanyahu said that he predicted the contentious move “will go much faster than one thinks.”
Responding to a question about Washington’s decision to withhold more than half its first 2018 contribution to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), Netanyahu said that three things are currently happening in the US which have never happened before.
“First, the transfer of the embassy. A solid assessment of mine that will go much faster than one thinks. Within a year from now,” Netanyahu said, according to Israeli media outlets.
“Second, there is a dramatic change in the face of Iran. The president has made time for the necessary changes in relation to the nuclear program,” he continued.
“The third thing is the challenge of UNRWA for the first time, after 70 years, the body that perpetuates the Palestinian narrative and the rejection of Zionism, and for the first time they challenge this," he added.
The US on Tuesday announced a $65 million cut to its planned January contribution to UNRWA against a backdrop of deteriorating relations between the Washington and the Palestinian Authority since Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital on December 6.
The Palestinians slammed the funding cut as evidence that the Trump administration “seems to be following Netanyahu’s instructions to gradually dismantle the one agency that was established by the international community to protect the rights of the Palestinian refugees and provide them with essential services.”
UN officials sounded alarm over the cut, warning that the aid was an important factor in regional stability.
UNRWA is specifically dedicated to serving some 5.3 million registered Palestinian refugees in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and throughout the Middle East. Other refugees throughout the world receive aid through the UN Refugee Agency under the auspices of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
Israel has often criticized UNRWA, accusing it of perpetuating the plight of Palestinians by allowing the descendants of first-generation Palestinian refugees -- those who fled what is today Israel when it was declared an independent state in 1948 -- to maintain refugee status in their host countries.
The US relationship with the Palestinians has been terse since Trump’s declaration recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and vow to relocate the US embassy there. The move sparked a new wave of unrest between Israel and the Palestinians, and called into question the US role in future peace talks.
The status of Jerusalem is among the most contentious in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Israel claims all of Jerusalem as its united capital, while the Palestinians see the eastern sector as the capital of their future state.
No country currently has its embassy in Jerusalem, instead keeping them in the Israeli commercial capital Tel Aviv.
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