WASHINGTON — President Trump will announce Wednesday that the United States recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and will begin the lengthy process of moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Although the Israeli government would welcome the acknowledgement, Palestinians and other world leaders say the move would unhinge prospects for a Middle East peace accord.
The U.S. policy has long been that the ancient city’s status should be settled through negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. Here’s how it could cause furor in the region and with U.S. allies:
The Arab League and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas warned the United States against recognizing Jerusalem, saying that could spark violence and set back future peace negotiations.
Abbas and others urged the White House to drop the proposal.
“Any American step related to the recognition of Jerusalem as capital of Israel, or moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, represents a threat to the future of the peace process and is unacceptable for the Palestinians, Arabs and internationally,” Abbas said over the weekend, according to the official Wafa Palestinian news agency.
Jordan’s King Abdullah II said Trump called him Tuesday to say he wanted to move the embassy to Jerusalem, according to a statement by the Jordanian embassy.
Abdullah told Trump: “Jerusalem is key to achieving peace and stability in the region and the world,” the statement said. Such a decision “will undermine efforts to resume the peace process and will provoke Muslims and Christians alike.”
The head of the Arab League, Ahmed Aboul-Gheit, warned of “repercussions” if the U.S. recognizes Jerusalem.
Israel regards Jerusalem as its capital, but the international community says the city’s status should be determined through peace talks. Palestinians claim east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state. Israel captured east Jerusalem in 1967 and later annexed it.
Because of the dispute over the ancient city, the United States and other countries maintain their embassies in Tel Aviv.
Threats of violence
The U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem warned Tuesday of possible demonstrations in Jerusalem’s Old City and the West Bank on Wednesday and restricted government employees and their families from personal travel to those areas.
The State Department recently advised American diplomatic posts in predominantly Muslim countries to be vigilant about possible protests.
The militant group Hamas, which controlled Gaza from 2007 until October, called on followers to launch another uprising if Trump’s plan proceeds.
Declaring Jerusalem the capital “constitutes a blatant aggression against the holy city,” Hamas said in a statement. “We call upon our Palestinian people to remain steadfast in the face of such a decision.”
The State Department has declared Hamas a terrorist group.
Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman brushed off the threat this week, saying Israel’s military would “know how to deal with all the ramifications” of such a decision, according to The Times of Israel.
A new approach to peace?
Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and Middle East adviser, has been negotiating a possible peace plan between Israel and the Palestinians. An agreement could pave the way for greater cooperation between Israel and the rest of the Arab world, Kushner said in rare public remarks Sunday at the Brookings Institution’s Saban Forum.
“Israel is a much more natural ally today than they were 20 years ago because of Iran and ISIS (Islamic State) extremism,” Kushner said. “If we’re going to try and create more stability in the region as a whole, you have to solve this issue.”
Aaron David Miller, a former U.S. peace negotiator and Middle East adviser to Democratic and Republican presidents, said the Trump administration’s approach could be to give Israel so much of what it wants that the nation would be forced to make important concessions.
Fuel extremists in the region?
Changing the status of Jerusalem — a holy city for Jews, Muslims and Christians — “would add to the narrative of extremists who want to paint the Western world in terms of a religious war,” said Yousef Munayyer, executive director of the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights.
“For the United States to weigh in so heavily on the side of the Israelis sends a message that the extremists would capitalize on,” Munayyer said.
Iran would also use the issue to advance its strength, making the country “more popular in the region at the expense of America’s allies,” Munayyer said. “I cannot think of anything short of sending Iranians arms and cash that would do more to boost the Iranians in the region.”
World leaders oppose recognition
Turkey, France and Germany, along with Saudi Arabia, Egypt and others also weighed in against any change in the U.S. policy on Jerusalem.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called such a move a “red line” for Muslims He said Turkey, a NATO ally, could respond by cutting diplomatic ties with Israel.
Saudi Arabia, a key U.S. partner in the Arab world, expressed its own “grave and deep concern.”
French President Emmanuel Macron said he reminded Trump in a phone call Monday that Jerusalem should be determined through negotiations on setting up an independent Palestine alongside Israel.
“Recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel does not calm a conflict, rather it fuels it even more,” German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said Tuesday. “It’s in everyone’s interest that this does not happen.”
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi talked with Trump on Tuesday, urging the U.S. not to change Jerusalem’s status. Sisi’s office said he also asked Trump to avoid any action that would undermine peace efforts.