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Liberman shuns Arab threats amid Jerusalem 'historic opportunity'

Israeli FM Avigdor Liberman
AFP/Menahem Kahana
Defense Minister Liberman says Israel will 'know how to deal with ramifications' of US recognition

Defence Minister Avigdor Liberman urged US President Donald Trump to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and relocate the embassy from Tel Aviv in what he described as a “historic opportunity.”

Speaking at his weekly Yisrael Beytenu party meeting, Liberman dismissed rising threats of violence made by the Arab world and said that Israel will, “know how to deal with all the ramifications” of any US recognition.

President Donald Trump faces a key decision this week over Jerusalem's status, potentially reversing years of US policy and prompting a furious response from the Palestinians and the Arab world. As the deadline looms, many await his announcement regarding the signing of a legal waiver that would delay by six months plans to move the US embassy to the Holy City.

There have been suggestions he will begrudgingly sign the waiver for a second time this week, but according to diplomats and observers, he may make a speech on Wednesday announcing his support for Israel's claim on Jerusalem as its capital.

THOMAS COEX (AFP)

"I think there is a historic opportunity to rectify the injustice," Lieberman told senior members of his Yisrael Beitenu party in parliament, a party statement, reaffirming that this is the “right step.”

The international community, including the United States, does not formally recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital, insisting the issue can only be resolved through final status negotiations. All foreign embassies are located in Tel Aviv with consular representation in Jerusalem.

"I very much hope that President Trump's decision to move the US embassy to Jerusalem is the final decision, and I hope to see an American embassy here in Jerusalem next week or next month," Lieberman said, adding that this would be, “very, very important to all Jewish people.”

Yesh Atid’s leader Yair Lapid also joined Liberman’s calls of support who told his opposition party meeting that the US should have recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, “70 years ago,” or at least the day following the 1967 Six Day War, reported The Times of Israel.

Only last week, former Prime Minister Ehud Barak stated that Trump's proposed move would be a, "great thing", and in an attempt to appease the Palestinians said, "we are still forthcoming to propose a plan that will answer your needs as well.’

Gil Cohen Magen (AFP/File)

- Palestinian backlash -

The Palestinian leadership has warned of the dangers of such a move, rallying the Arab world together in a bid to oppose the decision.

Ziad Abu Amr, the deputy Palestinian prime minister, officially informed US Consul General Donald Blome on Monday of their opposition.

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas has been speaking to foreign leaders to lobby against such a recognition.

Abu Amr "informed the US Consul General Donald Blome that moving the American embassy to Jerusalem or the US administration recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel is unacceptable," a statement said, after a meeting in Ramallah.

It said any such move would be "disrespectful" and "contrary to the role of the US administration as a mediator and sponsor of the peace process".

The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation on Monday also called for a summit of Muslim nations if the United States takes the controversial decision to move forward with the recognition.

Kevin Hagen (GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP)

The statement said doing so "disqualifies it from this role, and closes every door to continuing a serious peace process".

The Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas called Saturday for a new "intifada" if Washington recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel or moves its embassy to the disputed city.

Lieberman said that Israel was prepared to deal with any fresh unrest over the issue.

"If someone tries to provoke difficulties or riots around the transfer of the embassy, we will cope with it," he said.

Israel occupied east Jerusalem and the West Bank in the 1967 Six-Day War. It later annexed east Jerusalem in a move never recognized by the international community.

Israel claims the entire city as its undivided capital, while the Palestinians want the eastern sector as the capital of their future state.

Read more:

Saudis offer Jerusalem-adjacent city as alternative Palestinian capital: report

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