Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is asserting the U.S. will move its embassy to Jerusalem within a year – much earlier than the estimates given by Washington.
“My confident assessment is that it will move much faster than people think, within a year from today,” he told reporters Wednesday during a state visit to India.
That timeline conflicts with statements previously given by U.S. officials. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said last month that shifting the embassy would take at least three years, “and that’s pretty ambitious.”
President Donald Trump sparked a firestorm on Dec. 6 when he upended decades of careful diplomatic posturing by promising to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Other countries have avoided official recognition of the disputed city, which is claimed by both Israelis and Palestinians as their capital and is supposed to have its final status determined as part of the peace process.
The decision was condemned in a nonbinding resolution in the U.N. General Assembly, while Arab countries said it spelled a death sentence for the Middle East peace process.
Netanyahu’s assessment came as he praised Trump’s recent policy moves that he said constituted unprecedented support for Israel by a U.S. president. These included a tougher stance toward Iran, with whom Trump has threatened to cancel a landmark multiparty nuclear deal, as well cutting aid to the Palestinian refugee agency at the U.N.
The U.S. State Department announced Tuesday it was withholding $65 million from a scheduled $125 payment to the the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, which is set up to help Palestinian refugees and their descendants in the Middle East, citing the need for it to make unspecified reforms.
The head of the agency, Pierre Krähenbühl, has launched a global fundraising campaign to make up the shortfall, warning that the withheld funds would affect the security of millions of refugees, impacting regional security “at a time when the Middle East faces multiple risks and threats, notably that of further radicalization.”
But Netanyahu welcomed the U.S.’s decision to slash its payments to the agency, an organization he said “perpetuates the Palestinian narrative and the abolition of Zionism.”
“It's good that [the U.S. is] doing something that is challenging this organization,” he told reporters.