U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman took office on Tuesday and was immediately met with calls for the U.S. embassy to be moved to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv.
This happened less than a week before U.S. President Donald Trump is expected to visit.
“It is time for the whole world to recognise Jerusalem as the official capital of the State of Israel,” Israeli President Reuven Rivlin said after receiving Friedman at a ceremony in Jerusalem.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu emerged from a meeting with Friedman saying: “we spoke about our countries’ friendship, and I told him that the U.S. embassy must be moved to Jerusalem, as must all other embassies.”
Israel has long considered Jerusalem its capital.
However, since the Palestinian Authority would like to make East Jerusalem the capital of an eventual state, picking Jerusalem as an embassy site would show clear favour to Israel.
To avoid this, most countries have their embassies in Tel Aviv.
Friedman himself told Israel that the issue is at the top of President Trump’s priority list.
“The president has chosen Israel as the site for his first international visit this coming week. His love for, and commitment to, the State of Israel is rock-solid and it enjoys his highest priority,” Friedman said.
Despite the mutual appreciation, it is unclear whether settlement-friendly Friedman will in fact work out of the U.S. embassy building in Tel Aviv.
Friedman’s hardline position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has sparked controversy.
He has gone after US Jewish groups who back a two-state solution and says he does not find Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank illegal.
He hinted shortly after his nomination last year that he foresaw himself working from Jerusalem, implying that the embassy would move there.
However, Trump has backed off his campaign promises to move the embassy.
However, the U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had told U.S. broadcaster NBC on Sunday that “the president is being very careful to understand how such a decision would impact a peace process.”
After arriving in the country on Monday, Friedman immediately went to the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City.
“We wanted to come straight to the holiest place in the entire Jewish world,” Friedman said in a video taken by the U.S. embassy, adding he had prayed for Trump.
The Western Wall, also known as the Wailing Wall or Kotel, is an ancient retaining wall that sits at the foot of the Temple Mount.
The site in Jerusalem’s Old City, known as the Noble Sanctuary to Muslims, is considered one of the holiest sites in Islam and Judaism.
Friedman also spoke briefly with Steven Tyler, the frontman for the rock band Aerosmith, who coincidentally was also at the Western Wall ahead of a performance planned for Wednesday in Tel