The Arab League and Palestine have warned the US against moving its embassy to Jerusalem, saying such a move would set back any future peace negotiations and could spark a new wave of violence in the strife-torn region.
The warnings come as President Donald Trump considers moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, effectively recognizing the ancient city as Israel’s capital despite Palestinian claims to east Jerusalem. The move could come as early as Monday.
“We warned the American side that if the American government does in fact carry out that statement to recognize a unified Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and transfers the American embassy to Jerusalem, this is a step that will end any chance of a peace process,” Naabil Shaath, a senior adviser to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, said Sunday.
Abbas is trying to rally international opposition to such a move. The Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit echoed the Palestinian warnings. “We say very clearly that taking such action is not justified … It will not serve peace or stability, but will fuel extremism and resort to violence,” Gheit said in a statement.
“It only benefits one side; the Israeli government that is hostile to peace,” he added. Late Sunday, a warning also came from Jordan’s Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi, who said he had raised the matter with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. “Such a decision would trigger anger across Arab Muslim worlds, fuel tension and jeopardize peace efforts,” he wrote on Twitter.
‘Destruction of peace process’
Another Abbas adviser, Mahmoud Habash, warned that such a move by Trump would amount to a “complete destruction of the peace process.” Speaking in Abbas’ presence on Saturday, Habash said “the world will pay the price” for any change in Jerusalem’s status.
White House officials say Trump is considering recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital without actually moving the US embassy there, which he had promised to do during his campaign. Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior Middle East adviser, said Sunday that the president was still weighing whether to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital or move the US Embassy.
“He is still looking at a lot of different facts,” Kushner said at a Mideast policy conference in Washington. While Israel regards Jerusalem as its capital, almost all of the rest of the world rejects that claim, saying the city’s status should be settled in peace talks with the Palestinians.
The Palestinian militant group Hamas has warned of a renewed intifada, or uprising, if the US recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The status of Jerusalem has been a key stumbling block during previous peace negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, in particular, how to divide sovereignty and oversee holy sites. Another major issue is illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
The last Palestinian intifada occurred in 2000 after Ariel Sharon, Israel’s then right-wing opposition leader, visited the Al-Aqsa Mosque in east Jerusalem. The subsequent violence left some 3,000 Palestinians and 1,000 Israelis dead.
The international community has never recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital or its unilateral annexation of territory around the city’s eastern sector, which it captured during the 1967 Six-Day War.