JERUSALEM, Israel – President Donald Trump invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Washington next month, while rumors swirled in Israel that the White House would soon announce its move of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem.
Just two days after taking office, Trump is taking action to improve U.S.-Israeli relations, starting with a phone call to Netanyahu on Sunday.
During their half hour conversation, the leaders talked about the nuclear deal with Iran, the peace process with the Palestinians and other issues.
A statement from Washington said they had discussed ways to "advance and strengthen the U.S.-Israel special relationship and security and stability in the Middle East."
Netanyahu's office described the conversation as "warm."
Absent from both statements was any mention of moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Earlier in the day, an Israeli television journalist tweeted that they're at the "very beginning stages of discussing this subject."
BREAKING: President of the United States Donald Trump will announce tomorrow move of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem - (Channel 2).
— Israel News Feed (@IsraelHatzolah) January 22, 2017
"We are the very beginning stages of even discussing this subject," Spicer's statement read. "There will be a further announcement on that."
He added, "The president-elect has been very clear that Israel has not gotten the attention or respect it deserves in the last eight years. He intends to really show his respect for Israel [and] the importance of it in the Middle East."
Spicer said Trump has consulted with newly appointed Israeli ambassador David Friedman, Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson and his son-in-law and choice for senior adviser, Jared Kushner, on whether to proceed with the move.
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat applauded Trump, saying he sent "a clear message to the world that the U.S. recognizes Jerusalem as the indivisible capital of the State of Israel."
"I applaud President Trump on his historic announcement that the White House has begun discussions regarding moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem," Barkat said.
"President Trump has proven that he is a true friend of the State of Israel and a leader who keeps his promises. This evening's announcement has sent a clear message to the world that the U.S. recognizes Jerusalem as the indivisible capital of the State of Israel. We will provide any and all necessary assistance to the U.S. administration to ensure that the embassy move is done seamlessly and efficiently.
"The president emphasized that peace between Israel and the Palestinians can only be negotiated directly between the two parties and that the United States will work closely with Israel to make progress toward that goal," Barkat said.
Critics say moving the embassy would incite anger from the Arab world because the Palestinians claim Jerusalem as their own.
President Obama warned against the move before leaving office, saying, "When sudden unilateral moves are made that speak to the core issues or sensitivities of either side, that can be explosive."
Since the Obama administration's decision to back a U.N resolution, which in part declared Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria [the West Bank] to be illegal, U.S. lawmakers have moved to show support for Israel.
Sens. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Tom Cotton, R-Ark., have introduced legislation to combat anti-Israel bias at the United Nations. The bill proposes cutting funds to the U.N. and its affiliates who back the resolution.
Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, Trump's nominee to serve as United Nations ambassador, said during her Senate confirmation hearing, that the passage of the resolution was a "kick in the gut" against America's closest ally and she supports moving the embassy.