Em­bassy move op­posed

Trump cau­tioned over pos­si­ble plan to rec­og­nize Jerusalem as cap­i­tal of Is­rael

Simcoe Reformer - Times-Reformer - - WORLD NEWS - KARIN LAUB and JOSEF FE­D­ER­MAN

JERUSALEM — Vo­cif­er­ous Arab and Mus­lim op­po­si­tion was build­ing Tues­day to any pos­si­ble U.S. recog­ni­tion of con­tested Jerusalem as Is­rael’s cap­i­tal, as Euro­pean lead­ers ex­pressed con­cern about harm to frag­ile Mideast peace ef­forts.

U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump in­formed Pales­tinian Pres­i­dent Mah­moud Ab­bas in a phone call Tues­day that he in­tends to move the U.S. Em­bassy in Is­rael from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a holy city whose Is­raeli-an­nexed east­ern sec­tor the Pales­tini­ans seek as a fu­ture cap­i­tal.

Ab­bas’ of­fice said the Pales­tinian leader warned Trump of dan­ger­ous reper­cus­sions for Mideast peace ef­forts, as well as se­cu­rity and sta­bil­ity in the re­gion and the world.

The state­ment did not say if Trump gave a time­line for the in­tended move. U.S. of­fi­cials fa­mil­iar with plan­ning for a pos­si­ble an­nounce­ment on Jerusalem said they ex­pect Trump to speak to the mat­ter around mid­day Wed­nes­day, al­though the specifics of what he will say were still be­ing de­bated. The of­fi­cials were not au­tho­rized to dis­cuss in­ter­nal de­lib­er­a­tions and spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity.

The of­fi­cials, along with an out­side ad­viser to the ad­min­is­tra­tion, said they ex­pected Trump would make a generic state­ment about Jerusalem’s sta­tus as the “cap­i­tal of Is­rael.”

They said they did not ex­pect the pres­i­dent to use the phrase “un­di­vided cap­i­tal,” which would im­ply Is­raeli sovereignty over east Jerusalem, which is not rec­og­nized by the UN.

They also said Trump planned to sign a waiver de­lay­ing for an­other six months a U.S. legal re­quire­ment to move the U.S. Em­bassy in Is­rael from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. But, they said Trump would likely give wide lat­i­tude to David Fried­man, the U.S. Ambassador to Is­rael, to make a de­ter­mi­na­tion on when such a move would be ap­pro­pri­ate. Fried­man has spo­ken in favour of the move.

Jerusalem is home to the third­holi­est shrine of Is­lam, along with the holi­est site in Ju­daism and major Chris­tian holy sites. It forms the com­bustible cen­tre of the Is­raeli-Arab conflict. Any per­ceived harm to Mus­lim claims to the city has trig­gered large-scale protests in the past, both in the Holy Land and across the re­gion.

Mean­while, op­po­si­tion to any U.S. pol­icy change to­ward Jerusalem was build­ing in the Arab and Mus­lim world.

Ahmed Aboul-Gheit, the head of the Arab League, urged the U.S. to re­con­sider any recog­ni­tion of Jerusalem as Is­rael’s cap­i­tal. Such a step would be a “dan­ger­ous mea­sure that would have reper­cus­sions” across the re­gion, he said dur­ing a meet­ing of Arab League rep­re­sen­ta­tives in Cairo, Egypt.

Turk­ish Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan told par­lia­ment that U.S. recog­ni­tion of Jerusalem as Is­rael’s cap­i­tal was a “red line” and that his coun­try’s re­sponse “could go as far as us cut­ting diplo­matic ties with Is­rael.

Is­raeli Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Naf­tali Ben­nett played down the threat, say­ing that “at the end of the day it is bet­ter to have a united Jerusalem than Er­do­gan’s sym­pa­thy.”

Ma­jdi Khaldi, Ab­bas diplo­matic ad­viser, said recog­ni­tion of Jerusalem as Is­rael’s cap­i­tal could end Wash­ing­ton’s role as me­di­a­tor be­tween Is­raelis and Pales­tini­ans.

“If the Amer­i­cans rec­og­nize Jerusalem as the cap­i­tal of Is­rael, then this would mean they de­cided, on their own, to dis­tance them­selves from ef­forts to make peace and that they will have no cred­i­bil­ity or role in this is­sue,” Khaldi told said in per­haps the most sharply worded comments yet by a Pales­tinian of­fi­cial.

Should recog­ni­tion oc­cur, “we will stop our con­tacts with them be­cause such a step goes against our ex­is­tence and against the fate of our cause,” Khaldi said. “It tar­gets Mus­lims and Chris­tians alike.”

Pales­tinian po­lit­i­cal fac­tions led by Ab­bas’ Fatah move­ment called for daily protest marches this week, start­ing Wed­nes­day.

Key Wash­ing­ton ally Saudi Ara­bia also spoke out strongly against such a pos­si­ble step. Saudi Ara­bia, a re­gional pow­er­house, is cru­cial to any White House plans to pro­mote a pos­si­ble Mideast peace deal. Saudi Ara­bia ex­pressed its “grave and deep con­cern” about pos­si­ble recog­ni­tion.

In a state­ment on the state-run Saudi Press Agency, the For­eign Min­istry said that the king­dom af­firms the rights of Pales­tinian peo­ple re­gard­ing Jerusalem, which it said “can­not be changed.”

On Mon­day, the Or­ga­ni­za­tion for Is­lamic Co-op­er­a­tion, which has 57 mem­ber states, said U.S. recog­ni­tion of Jerusalem as Is­rael’s cap­i­tal would con­sti­tute “naked ag­gres­sion” against the Mus­lim and Arab world.

East Jerusalem, now home to more than 300,000 Pales­tini­ans, was cap­tured by Is­rael in 1967 and then an­nexed to its cap­i­tal, a move most of the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity has not rec­og­nized.

Pales­tini­ans seek east Jerusalem as a fu­ture cap­i­tal. Is­rael’s cur­rent govern­ment, un­like its pre­de­ces­sors, re­jects the idea of par­ti­tion of the city.

ODED BALITY/THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

U.S. of­fi­cials have said that U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump may rec­og­nize Jerusalem as Is­rael’s cap­i­tal this week as a way to off­set his likely de­ci­sion to de­lay his cam­paign prom­ise of mov­ing the U.S. Em­bassy there.

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