US President Donald Trump told Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas in a phone call on Tuesday that he intends to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, the official PA news agency Wafa reported. According to Wafa, Trump “informed the president on his intention to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.” The White House confirmed the call, but did not offer any details or time frame for the reported embassy move. Abbas spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh, quoted in Wafa, said “President Abbas warned of the grave implications of this decision on the peace process, security and stability in the region and the world.” Rudeineh added that Abbas reaffirmed his “unyielding position” that East Jerusalem will be the capital of a future Palestinian state and that he will continue contacting world leaders to prevent an embassy move, which would herald US recognition of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital.
Trump is scheduled to speak with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and Jordanian King Abdullah on Tuesday, the White House said. The president’s phone call comes as he is expected to make an announcement this week regarding US policy on Jerusalem. If the embassy is moved it would upend decades of US policy towards the holy city, which both Israelis and Palestinians see as their capital. Palestinian and Arab leaders have warned that such a move could spark violence and instability throughout the Middle East, as Jerusalem is home to Islam’s third-holiest site. Multiple US presidents have refrained from recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, despite Israeli prodding, in the hope of remaining neutral while the city’s contested borders are determined in a long-hoped-for Israeli-Palestinian peace deal. Nearly all countries that have diplomatic relations with Israel – a group that excludes a large number of Arab and Muslim states – keep their embassies in Tel Aviv. Trump’s phone call comes after a day of diplomatic backlash spanning from Saudi Arabia to Turkey to Germany. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened to break off diplomatic ties with Israel if Trump goes ahead with his campaign pledge to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish state. “Mr Trump, Jerusalem is a red line for Muslims,” Erdogan said in a speech. “It could go so far that we will break off our diplomatic ties with Israel,” he added. In 2016, Israel and Turkey reappointed ambassadors after a six-year break due to a lethal Israeli raid on an aid flotilla to Gaza.
If Trump did go ahead with the move, Erdogan said he would call a summit of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), which Turkey currently heads, in Istanbul. “At this summit we will mobilize the whole of the Islamic world,” Erdogan said. Meanwhile, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said that the only solution to the issue of Jerusalem would be through “direct negotiations” between the Israelis and Palestinians. “Anything that escalates the crisis during these times is counterproductive,” Gabriel said. He also added that recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel would be “a very dangerous development” that would not “calm” the conflict, but rather “fuel it once more.” Jordan’s King Abdullah is due to meet with Erdogan in Turkey on Wednesday, as part of a diplomatic push to stall any official decision by Trump – which possibly could be made this week – that would affect the status quo. Both Jordan and Egypt, the only two Arab states with diplomatic ties to Israel, have warned against moving the US embassy to Jerusalem.(dpa/NAN)