Netanyahu says at least six states considering moving embassies to Jerusalem

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a Memorial Day ceremony at Mount Herzl military cemetery in Jerusalem, April 18, 2018. Debbie Hill/Pool via Reuters

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday that “at least half a dozen” countries were considering moving their embassies to Jerusalem following the U.S. decision to do so.

U.S. President Donald Trump announced in December that the United States recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, infuriating even Washington’s Arab allies and dismaying Palestinians who want the eastern part of the city as their capital.

The U.S. Embassy is due to relocate to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv on May 14, the date on which Israel declared its independence in 1948.

“In order to promote peace ... move your embassies here,” Netanyahu told foreign diplomats at a reception in Jerusalem celebrating the 70th anniversary of that declaration.

He thanked Guatemala which decided to move its embassy soon after the U.S. announcement, but he did not name the other countries he said were considering following suit.

“I am pleased to say that there are at least half a dozen countries that are currently talking seriously to us about moving their embassies to Jerusalem,” Netanyahu said.

The first ten embassies to relocate to Jerusalem would receive “preferential treatment”, he said without explaining what that might entail.

A U.S. official said the embassy would be located at a provisional site in Jerusalem that now houses a U.S. consular section. Building a permanent embassy could take several years.

Most countries do not recognize either Israel’s or the Palestinians’ sovereignty in Jerusalem and have embassies to Israel in the Tel Aviv area.

Writing by Ori Lewis; Editing by Andrew Heavens