Mondoweiss

US embassy move to Jerusalem would spark ‘fanaticism and violence’ and end US status as negotiator — Arab leaders

A Palestinian artist paints a mural drawing depicting the Dome of the Rock Mosque against Israeli security measures that were implemented at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem, July 2017. (Photo: Ashraf Amra/APA Images)

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyadh Malki has called for an emergency meeting of the Arab League to discuss recent rumors that U.S. President Donald Trump soon plans to go through with threats to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, de facto recognizing the city as the capital of Israel.

The meeting is scheduled to take place on Tuesday and should include representatives of the 22 member states of the Arab League, several of which have already made public statements condemning the alleged U.S. plan.

Leaders have warned that the plan could spark serious unrest and protests across the Arab world, and quash the U.S.’s status as a negotiator in ending the Israeli occupation of Palestine.

During a press conference in Cairo on Sunday, Arab League chief Ahmed Abul Gheit told reporters it is “unfortunate that some are insisting on carrying out [the embassy move] without any regard to the dangers it carries to the stability of the Middle East and the whole world.”

“Nothing justifies this act…” Abul Gheit said. “It will not serve peace or stability, instead it will nourish fanaticism and violence.”

The move would “benefit only one side, which is the anti-peace Israeli government,” he told reporters.

The embassy move would signify a shift in U.S. policy, in which the U.S. would officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel for the first time in history.

While today is the deadline for signing the waiver that would keep the embassy in Tel Aviv, it is unclear whether Trump intends to sign the document on time. Reporters have suggested that Trump plans to officially recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, but stop short of moving the embassy on Wednesday. The White House has so far said the rumors are “premature.”

During a meeting in Ramallah on Monday, Deputy Prime Minister of Palestine and former Foreign Minister Ziad Abu Amr told Donald Blome, U.S. Consul General in Jerusalem, that moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem and recognizing the city as the capital of Israel, is “unacceptable” and “involves risks” with unknown consequences.  

According to official Palestinian News Agency, Wafa, Abu Amr stressed in the meeting that such U.S. actions would be “offensive and contrary to the role of the U.S. administration as a mediator and sponsor of the peace process,” adding that the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel immediately “disqualifies” the U.S. from its role as a negotiator and threatens to “push the entire region into more tension and instability.”

The Deputy Prime Minister also warned that acts to move the embassy to Jerusalem or recognize it as the capital of Israel, “will free the Palestinian leadership from any previous understandings it had with the U.S. administration.”

The Israeli Foreign Ministry has thus far refused to comment on the issue.

On Sunday PLO Secretary-General Saeb Erekat released a statement on the rumors, saying recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital would “promote international anarchy and disrespect for global institutions and law.”

Like Amr, Erekat warned that such moves would result in the U.S. disqualifying itself to “play any role in any initiative towards achieving a just and lasting peace.”

According to Erekat, Tuesday’s meeting with the Arab league will focus on approving the “necessary steps in case such an announcement is made.”

“If such a decision is announced, it will contribute to the further destabilization of the region and will discourage many of those who still believe that a peaceful solution is achievable to end over 50 years of Israeli occupation, 70 years of exile and decades of systematic violations of Palestinian national and human rights,” Erekat said.

He added that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has been in contact with several world leaders to assess the situation and encourage world actors to take action “in order not to allow for those initiatives to materialize into a new political reality.”

On Sunday Jordanian Minister of Foreign and Expatriate Affairs, Ayman Safadi, called U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, warning the official of the “dangerous consequences” U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital would cause.

Safadi said such a decision would “trigger anger across the Arab and Muslim world, fuel tension and jeopardize peace efforts,” highlighting the need to preserve the “historical and legal status of the holy city.”

The root of the current crises dates back to the “Jerusalem Embassy Act,” signed by the congress in 1995. The act, passed during the Clinton administration, required the U.S. to move its embassy to Tel Aviv, and in doing so, acknowledge Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Despite his opposition to the act, Bill Clinton signed the bill, supposedly because it had passed with largely bipartisan support. He did not go through with the requirements however, using a mechanism in the law that allows the president to delay the law’s activation by signing a waiver every six months under “security reasons.”

Every U.S. president since then has continued the process. If at anytime during Trump’s presidency, he fails to sign the waiver, the law could be enacted, and the U.S. embassy could be moved to Jerusalem.