Tension Looms In Middle East, As USA Plans To Move Embassy To Jerusalem
President Donald Trump’s plan to formally announce his intention to move the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem has been greeted with strong criticism from leaders in the Middle East.
GCTN reports that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Jordan’s King Abdullah, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, who all received telephone calls from Trump on Tuesday, joined a mounting chorus of voices warning that unilateral US steps on Jerusalem would harm a fledgling US-led peace effort and unleash turmoil in the region.
Senior US officials said Trump is expected to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital on Wednesday but delay relocating the embassy from Tel Aviv for another six months.
The move would reverse long-standing US policy and run contrary to international consensus.
The US has in the past said that the city’s status must be decided in negotiations with the Palestinians, who want East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state. The international community does not recognize Israeli sovereignty over the entire city, home to sites holy to the Muslim, Jewish and Christian religions.
Trump notified Abbas “of his intention to move the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem,” Abbas spokesman Nabil Abu Rdainah said.
Abbas, in response, “warned of the dangerous consequences such a decision would have to the peace process and to the peace, security and stability of the region and of the world” and also appealed to the Pope and the leaders of Russia, France and Jordan to intervene.
The Jordanian monarch, whose dynasty is the custodian of the Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem, told Trump that moving the embassy would have “dangerous repercussions” for the region and would obstruct US efforts to promote Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, according to a palace statement.
Saudi Arabia’s King Salman stressed to Trump that any US announcement on the status of Jerusalem would “inflame Muslim feelings all over the world,” the Saudi Press Agency said.
Arab criticism of Trump’s plan contrasted sharply with the praise Washington’s traditional Arab allies heaped on him at the beginning of his administration.
They saw Trump as re-engaging in the region after what they perceived as former President Barack Obama’s distancing of himself from them, as well as taking a tougher stand against Iran.
The European Union’s top diplomat, Federica Mogherini, said on Tuesday that “any action that would undermine” peace efforts to create two separate states for the Israelis and the Palestinians “must absolutely be avoided.”
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has “consistently warned against any unilateral action that would have the potential to undermine the two-state solution,” UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters in New York.
The White House said that Trump had also spoken with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a longtime proponent of a US embassy move to Jerusalem.
A senior Israeli minister welcomed Trump’s decision while vowing that Israel would be prepared for any outbreak of violence.
Trump is expected to sign a national security waiver – as his predecessors have – keeping the embassy in Tel Aviv for another six months but would commit to setting the move in motion. However, he was not planning to set a specific timetable, the US officials said.
Trump appears intent on satisfying the pro-Israel, right-wing base, including evangelical Christians, that helped him win the presidency but was disappointed when he delayed the embassy move in June. No other country has its embassy in Jerusalem.
Israel seized the largely-Arab eastern sector of Jerusalem during the 1967 Six-Day War and later annexed it, claims both halves of the city to be its “eternal and undivided capital.”
But the Palestinians fiercely oppose any Israeli attempt to extend sovereignty there.