by Michael Arnold and Jonathan Ferziger
President Donald Trump will keep his pledge to move the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani said, despite Palestinian warnings that such a step would spark violence and sabotage the prospect of renewed peace talks.
Traveling to Israel with messages from Trump to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Giuliani said the new U.S. president and his advisers will probably take “six months or so” to develop a new strategy for American peace efforts in the Middle East. How and when the U.S. moves the embassy will be discussed when Netanyahu visits the White House in early February, Giuliani said.
“I think you’ve got to wait a little bit, but it will get done,” Giuliani said of the embassy move, speaking in an interview at the Tel Aviv offices of Greenberg Traurig LLP. He heads the law firm’s global Cybersecurity, Privacy and Crisis Management practice.
The fate of Jerusalem is among the most sensitive issues Israelis and Palestinians will need to address in any future peace negotiations. Israel took the eastern part of Jerusalem from Jordan in the 1967 Middle East War and considers all of the city as its capital, while the Palestinians want the eastern portion as the capital of their hoped-for state.
Trump realizes the embassy decision “implicates four or five countries and how they’re going to react,” Giuliani said. “He needs to know how the prime minister of Israel is going to react and how he wants to see something like this done.”
The former mayor, who was known during his tenure for a hard-line attitude toward even petty crime in New York City, dismissed Palestinian warnings that moving the embassy would ignite the whole region.
“I think this country is capable of dealing with waves of violence,” he said.
Giuliani predicted Netanyahu and Trump would have a “very, very good, collaborative relationship,” as opposed to what he described as the “hostile relationship” between President Barack Obama and the Israeli leader.
The changed atmosphere was already evident in the first week of Trump’s tenure. While construction plans beyond Israel’s 1967 border were a recurring source of friction with the Obama administration, Trump was silent this week as Israeli officials approved plans for 2,500 housing units in the West Bank and hundreds of apartments in eastern Jerusalem.
Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Executive Committee, called the building plans a “flagrant violation of international law” and accused Israel of “exploiting the inauguration of the new American administration to escalate its violations and the prevention of any existence of a Palestinian state.”
Trump considered Giuliani for attorney general and secretary of state before ultimately naming him to head a committee on cybersecurity. Giuliani said he discussed cyberdefense with Netanyahu and other Israeli officials Thursday and will return in a few months for more substantive talks on the subject. Israel is among the global leaders in the field.
“We realize in the United States that we have a cybersecurity defense problem,” Giuliani said. His committee is tasked with organizing private-sector experts into groups that can help address the government’s cyber priorities, he said.