Donald Trump has informed the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas that he intends to make the highly controversial move of switching the US Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, Abbas’s spokesman said.
‘President Mahmoud Abbas received a telephone call from US President Donald Trump in which he notified the President (Abbas) of his intention to move the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem,’ spokesman Nabil Abu Rdainah said in a statement reported by Reuters.
The statement did not say whether Trump elaborated on the timing of such a move, though more reports and perhaps a statement are expected in the coming hours.
‘President Abbas 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,’ Abu Rdainah said.
The apparent move, almost universally seen as a set-back for the region’s dormant peace process, follows several years of speculation, and comes after Trump was under competing international pressures today over whether unilaterally to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and whether to move the embassy.
The leaders of Turkey and US allies Saudi Arabia and France urged the US President not to make the highly controversial moves which would infuriate the Palestinians in the sensitive region, while evangelical Christians and Israelis lobbied for the change amid confusion after Trump appeared to miss the deadline for the embassy shift on Monday.
A source in the British Foreign Office told Christian Today, simply: ‘This is horrendous.’
The US, the UN and almost every country in the world currently refuse to accept that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital, with most major embassies functioning in the sea-side business capital, Tel Aviv. International consensus is that East Jerusalem is occupied territory, just like the West Bank.
While Israel considers Jerusalem its ‘eternal, undivided capital’, the Palestinians regard the east of the city – occupied by Israel in the 1967 Six Day War – to be the capital of any future Palestinian state.
Critics said that Trump’s proposals would further threaten a two-state solution to which the agreed division of Jerusalem would be key.
The debate about the embassy’s location goes back to 1995, when the US Congress approved the Jerusalem Embassy Act, which requires that the American embassy be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Since then, successive US presidents – both Democratic and Republican – have exercised a waiver delaying its implementation every six months on national security grounds, and official US policy does not recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
There has been speculation for the past two years about whether Trump would fulfill his campaign promise to make the move, as well as recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Some reports say the Trump will dramatically shift the US position on the status of Jerusalem this week.
Today, the Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan said such a move would cross a ‘red line’ for Muslims.
‘Mr Trump! Jerusalem is a red line for Muslims,’ Mr Erdogan said in a televised speech on Tuesday.
‘We could go as far as cutting diplomatic ties with Israel over the issue.’
Meanwhile, Prince Khalid bin Salman, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the US, said in a statement to CNN: ‘Any announcement prior to a final settlement would have a detrimental impact on the peace process and would heighten tensions in the region.’
And it emerged that in a phone call with Trump yesterday, the French president Emmanuel Macron expressed similar thoughts, according to a readout provided by the French Foreign Ministry which said Macron shared his concern about the possibility that the US might unilaterally recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
Macron reportedly reaffirmed the standard international position that the status of Jerusalem should be resolved through peace negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, ‘and particularly those relating to the establishment of two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security with Jerusalem as their capital,’ the statement said.
However, in the US a group of evangelical Christians said they are praying that Trump will move the embassy.
My Faith Votes this week mobilised Christians to send a message to the president, encouraging him to move the embassy. The CEO of My Faith Votes, Jason Yates said: ‘For American Christians, our relationship with Israel is much more than a strategic partnership. Israel is the birthplace of the Judeo-Christian faith that has made America great in the first place. And this same faith is the source of our unwavering commitment to the Jewish people and to their right to live peacefully in their eternal homeland.’
‘As the six-month deadline for the waiver to move the US embassy in Israel approaches, we are praying President Trump will decide to move our embassy to Israel’s rightful capital, Jerusalem. Doing so would send a bold message to the world that, in a time of heightened international tensions, the bond between the United States and its ally Israel is unbreakable.’