President Donald Trump denied on Wednesday that the planned relocation of the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem would take place within a year, after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he expected the controversial move to happen by then.
Reversing decades of US policy, Trump in early December recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and set in motion the process of moving the embassy from Tel Aviv.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said last month the embassy move was “probably no earlier than three years out, and that’s pretty ambitious,” a timeframe that administration officials have attributed to the logistics of finding and securing a site as well as arranging housing for diplomats.
Netanyahu, according to Israeli reporters traveling with him on a trip to India, said on Wednesday: “My solid assessment is that it will go much faster than you think—within a year from now.”
Asked about Netanyahu’s comment, Trump told Reuters in an interview that was not the case. ”By the end of the year? We’re talking about different scenarios—I mean obviously that would be on a temporary basis. We’re not really looking at that. That’s no.“
On Thursday morning, officials in the Prime Minister's Office doubled down on the remarks, insisting there was no contradiction between the prediction made by the Israeli premier in India and Trump's response.
“Obviously the building of a new embassy takes years, but the prime minister believes that the US is considering construction steps which will likely to see the opening of the embassy in a short timeframe,” the officials said.
Trump—whose decision on the embassy move fulfilled a campaign pledge—promised, however, that it would be a “a beautiful embassy but not one that costs $1.2 billion,” referring to what he says was the cost of the new US embassy in London.
Trump last week canceled a trip to London to open the new diplomatic mission, blaming his White House predecessor Barack Obama for selling off the old one for “peanuts” in a bad deal.
He acknowledged that the embassy move in Britain was agreed under former President George W. Bush but said it was built under Obama and “came out tremendously over budget.”