JERUSALEM, Israel – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday that Israel is already in touch with other countries that want to follow the lead of the United States and move their embassies to Jerusalem.
President Trump became the first US president to publicly recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. In a televised address on Wednesday, Trump also said the wheels are in motion to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
"I want to take this opportunity to announce that we are already in contact with other countries that will declare similar recognition," Netanyahu said at a Foreign Ministry conference on Digital Diplomacy.
"I have no doubt that the moment the American embassy moves to Jerusalem, and even before, many more embassies will move to Jerusalem. It's about time," Netanyahu added.
Israel's Foreign Ministry declined to elaborate but media reports have already indicated that some countries are moving in that direction, including the Czech Republic, Hungary, The Philippines and India."
Jerusalem is one of the thorniest issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Backed by thousands of years of history, including the Bible, Israel says Jerusalem is the undivided, eternal capital of the Jewish people.
Palestinians claim the city as their own and want the eastern section as the capital of a future Palestinian state.
Trump's announcement sparked harsh reactions in the Middle East and beyond, as well as protests on the ground, but some countries apparently think moving their embassies to Jerusalem is a good idea.
The Czech Republic issued a statement saying it recognized western Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and considered it to be the future capital of a Palestinian state, too.
Israel is reportedly expecting Hungary to do the same. On Wednesday, Budapest blocked a joint European Union statement that would have opposed Trump's move, according to the Times of Israel.
The same article cited unnamed Israeli officials saying that the Philippines was eager to move its embassy to Jerusalem too.
And in a tweet, senior leader in the Indian Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Subramanian Swamy called for his country's embassy to be moved to Jerusalem.
Some are concerned about the push to recognize western Jerusalem only as Israel's capital as Russia did earlier this year.
Israel reunited the city in the 1967 Six-Day War after 19 years of division. The ancient Old City, including the Temple Mount, Western Wall and many churches are in the eastern part of the city.
Trump did not specify western Jerusalem, but he didn't mention the "undivided" city either.
That didn't seem to bother Netanyahu.
"We were all moved to hear President Trump's historic statement, the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital, and this statement is – of course – based on ancient right," Netanyahu said at the conference.
"The Jewish people determined Jerusalem to be its capital 3,000 years ago. Here our forefathers walked. Here our kings ruled. Here our prophets preached. Here are our roots," he said. "This is, in effect, our identity card."
Netanyahu said Trump had "inscribed himself in the annals of our capital for all time."
"His name will now be linked to the names of others in the context of the glorious history of Jerusalem and our people," he said.
Netanyahu also thanked the US Congress for passing the Jerusalem Embassy Act in 1995, which, he said, "provided a basis for the recognition until President Trump came and implemented this law."