JERUSALEM (JTA) – Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said his country will have to pay “a price” for the U.S. decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv.
“There is no free lunch,” Liberman told Israel Channel 2’s Saturday night program “Meet the Press.” He added that “the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem will come at a price and it is worth paying it. We should welcome, and be prepared, to pay a price.”
On Friday, The Jerusalem Post reported that U.S. officials told Liberman during his visit to Washington, D.C., last week that the Trump administration plans to ask Israel to withdraw from four Arab neighbourhoods in eastern Jerusalem – Jebl Mukabar, Isawiya, Shuafat and Abu Dis – and transfer control to the Palestinian Authority in order to make the area the capital of a future Palestinian state. U.S. officials later denied the report, saying the U.S. peace plan is not completed.
Liberman also called the decision to move the embassy “historic, important and dramatic.” He said during the Saturday night broadcast that he believes that there could be attempts to disrupt the mid-May celebration of the embassy move, but does not expect casualties.
The Palestinian March of Return is scheduled to climax on May 14, the day of the embassy dedication, which marks the 70th anniversary, according to the Gregorian calendar, of the birth of the modern State of Israel, though Hamas has called for the protests to continue beyond mid-May.
With about a week to go before the inauguration of the embassy, which will include a ceremony attended by about 1,000 guests, including a delegation of 250 from the United States, it still is not known if U.S. President Donald Trump will attend.
Trump said late last month in Washington when asked who would attend the inauguration: “I may go. Very proud of it.”
The delegation is reported to include at least 40 members of the Senate and House of Representatives, as well as Trump son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner and the president’s daughter and advisor Ivanka Trump, and special Middle East peace envoy Jason Greenblatt. It was initially said to be led by Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, who is Jewish.
The new embassy initially will be housed in southern Jerusalem, in the Arnona neighborhood, on a compound that currently houses the consular operations of the Consulate General of Jerusalem. Site selection and construction of a new embassy will take up to nine years.