President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had a phone conversation on Sunday, in what Netanyahu’s office characterized as “very warm”. Agenda items included “threats from Iran” and ways to strengthen relations between the two countries. Trump invited the prime minister to come to Washington to meet sometime in February.
“The President and the Prime Minister agreed to continue to closely consult on a range of regional issues, including addressing the threats posed by Iran,” the White House said after Sunday’s call. “The President affirmed his unprecedented commitment to Israel’s security and stressed that countering ISIL and other radical Islamic terrorist groups will be a priority for his Administration,” it said, referring to Islamic State.
Trump also emphasized that peace could only be negotiated directly between the Israelis and Palestinians—not through unilateral moves.
Participants of the Hamas terrorist organization’s military training graduated on Sunday in Gaza “displaying weapons, marching in military formation and burning an Israeli flag in front of crowds of cheering supporters.” The flag was burned by a young child, and the graduates ranged from children to middle-aged adults.
Hamas has a history of training young children to be “martyrs” while fighting against Israel. The group announced in July that it was opening three-week-long training camps in Gaza for over 50,000 elementary, middle, and high school students. Hamas official Ismail Radwan explained that the theme of the camps is the “Jerusalem Intifada,” and that the goal is “to raise a generation of Palestinians who love the resistance and the liberation of Palestine and the Al-Aqsa Mosque.” The camps also include scouting and religious educational programming.
Hamas often dresses children in military uniforms and teaches them how to shoot firearms. In May, Palestinian kindergarten students in the Gaza Strip wore military fatigues and brandished toy machine guns to simulate the capture of an Israeli soldier as part of a school play.
The mayor of Jerusalem announced on Monday that he is holding direct talks with members of the new U.S. administration about potentially moving the American embassy to the Israeli capital, describing his interlocutors as “serious about their intention.” Mayor Nir Barkat noted in a statement that the Trump administration’s interest in relocating the embassy from Tel Aviv sends “a clear message to the world that the United States recognizes Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel.”
The Trump administration indicated on Sunday that discussions over the embassy move are currently in their preliminary stages. Israel declared Jerusalem as its capital in 1949, shortly after its independence. Its legislature, Supreme Court, and executive government offices are all located there, as are the president’s and prime minister’s official residences.
U.S. law has required the relocation of the embassy to Jerusalem since the Clinton era. Congress adopted the Jerusalem Embassy Act in 1995 with overwhelming bipartisan majorities in both houses, requiring that the American embassy be moved to Jerusalem by May 31, 1999. The legislation, which notes that “each sovereign nation, under international law and custom, may designate its own capital,” acknowledges that Jerusalem has served as Israel’s capital since 1950 and asserts that it should remain an undivided city. However, all presidents have opted to waive that order for six-month periods since it was passed. The current waiver expires in May 2017. Although Palestinian minister Jibril Rajoub claimed on Sunday that such a move would be tantamount to “a declaration of war against Muslims,” none of the potential embassy locations are on territory claimed by the Palestinians, but are rather on Israel’s side of the 1949 armistice agreement lines.
Following UNESCO’s passage of a resolution this past October denying the centuries-old Jewish connection to Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, Judaism’s holiest site, a bipartisan group of U.S. senators and representatives wrote a letter reaffirming congressional recognition of Jerusalem as “Israel’s eternal capital.” This sentiment has wide support among American lawmakers, with Sen. Ben Cardin (D – Md.), currently the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, saying in 2010 that “Jerusalem is the undivided capital of the State of Israel.”
The passage last month of United Nations Security Council resolution 2334, which described eastern Jerusalem — where the Jewish Quarter of the Old City is located — as Palestinian territory, has provided further impetus for the embassy move. The Security Council measure was opposed by many top Democratic and Republican politicians, and praised by the Palestinian Authority, Hamas, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.