Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday that Israel’s “historical and national identity is receiving important expressions every day, but especially today.” The prime minister was speaking in a Facebook video ahead of the expected announcement by U.S. President Donald Trump to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Earlier Wednesday, in his first public comments since the White House confirmed Trump will make the Jerusalem announcement, Netanyahu avoided any mention of the decision. Instead, the prime minister focused his remarks on the Iranian threat to the region on Wednesday.
In his speech at a conference held by the Jerusalem Post, Netanyahu warned against the threat Iran poses, saying the Islamic Republic seeks to “conquer the Middle East.” The prime minister warned that Israel will not allow Iran to establish a foothold in Syria.
“We say what we mean and mean what we say,” Netanyahu said. The prime minister called on other nations to pressure Iran, while at the same time support the Iranian people.
Netanyahu also reviewed Israel’s diplomatic relationships with the rest of the world.
He was expected to respond to Trump’s Tuesday decision to declare Jerusalem Israel’s capital and possibly begin moving the U.S. embassy to the city.
On Tuesday, Israeli ministers were instructed, per the White House’s request, to keep mum on the issue until a final decision is made by President Trump on whether or not to sign the waiver that would determine the future of the embassy for the next six months.
However, Education Minister Naftali Bennett, who also spoke at the conference, called on other nations to follow Trump’s lead and recognize Jerusalem as the capital of the state of Israel.
Netanyahu described a survey commissioned by the Foreign Ministry on how people feel about Israel in more than 50 countries, notably including the Arab nations. The attitude towards Israel among the majority in the Arab nations has been changing, because of developing economic ties, Netanyahu said, calling it a “revolution”.
A giant screen behind the prime minister showed, among other things, a map marking the countries that have diplomatic relations with Israel, and the names of major Israeli companies operating globally.
As Netanyahu was sp
eaking about the strengthening diplomatic ties between Israel and the world, China and Russia expressed concern over Trump’s expected recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. China warned on Wednesday that Trump’s decision could fuel tensions in the region, AFP reported.
“We are concerned about the possible escalation of tensions,” foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said. In Moscow, the Kremlin said Russia is concerned with the difficult situation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
Israeli MK Yair Lapid spoke prior to Prime Minister Netanyahu, saying “Moving the embassy is the right thing to do. Now is the time to do what is right.”
In his remarks at the conference, Transportation and Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz said “This is a historic day for the State of Israel! I praise the decision of President Trump to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and I expect the international community to support Trump’s decision.”
Trump will announce his official recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital on Wednesday, the White House has confirmed early Wednesday. While the president intends to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, he will nevertheless sign a presidential waiver delaying the move by six months for “logistical reasons,” senior White House officials said in press briefing.