As it happened: Trump plows ahead with Jerusalem embassy move
Brendan Smialowski (AFP/Archives)
US President Donald Trump ignored warnings of widespread Middle East unrest and damage to his administration's own peace process Tuesday, telling anxious Arab leaders he still intends to move the US embassy to Jerusalem, while Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas embarked on a furious last minute diplomatic campaign to strangle the expected move.
The Middle East was tipped into a frenzy over the weekend after senior US officials leaked word that Trump was considering declaring Jerusalem as Israel's "undivided capital" and kick-starting the process of moving the American embassy there.
Such recognition would buoy Israel, which took control of the whole city in 1967 and sees it as its eternal capital, but would dash Palestinian hopes of establishing the capital of their hoped-for state there.
According to a statements carried by official news agencies of each country, Trump told the presidents of the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Egypt, and the Jordanian king, that he intends to move the US mission from Israel’s commercial hub of Tel Aviv to the holy city of Jerusalem.
King Abdullah of Jordan warned Trump of "the danger of taking any decision outside the context of a comprehensive solution that establishes a Palestinian state with its capital in east Jerusalem".
PA President Mahmoud Abbas' spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina said the Palestinian leader told his US counterpart that the decision would unleash regional and "world" instability.
The US consulate in Jerusalem has instructed staff not to travel in Jerusalem's Old City or the West Bank from Wednesday in light of reports that Palestinians are planning three "days of rage".
Meanwhile, security forces in Israel have been put on high alert as the country prepares to feel the brunt of an expected backlash to the announcement, as have American embassies in the Middle East.
Turkey, Jordan and Saudi Arabia have already conveyed deep concern and stark warnings to the White House.
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- King Abdullah of Jordan
- President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi of Egypt
- President Tayyip Recep Erdogan of Turkey
- Pope Francis
- President Emmanuel Macron of France
She also dismissed the chorus of criticism of the expected announcement as "hardly indicative" of world opinion.
Hamas chief Ismail Haniya warned Tuesday that a US decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem and recognize the city as Israel's capital would be a "dangerous escalation" that crosses "every red line".
According to the Saudi Press Agency, the King told Trump that "any American declaration on the status of Jerusalem prior to reaching a final settlement would harm the peace negotiations and increase tension in the region" and stressed that "such a dangerous step would provoke the feelings of all Muslims around the world due to the great status of Jerusalem and the Al-Aqsa Mosque".
"Recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel does not calm a conflict, rather it fuels it even more," the foreign minister, known to have a dim view of trump, was quoted as saying.
"It's in everyone's interest that this does not happen."
"We reaffirm our commitment to the UN-approved principles for a Palestinian-Israeli settlement, which include the status of East Jerusalem as the capital of the future Palestinian state," a foreign ministry statement said. "At the same time, we must state that in this context we view West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel."
S. 1322 states that "Jerusalem should be recognized as the capital of the State of Israel; and the United States Embassy in Israel should be established in Jerusalem no later than May 31, 1999.
So while they seem to go together, Trump still has the power to legally separate the two if he wishes.
The New York Times reports that he is likely to sign the presidential waiver keeping the embassy in Tel Aviv for six months, but kick off the process of moving it to Jerusalem.