Critics warned of violent consequences and immediately condemned President Donald Trump on Tuesday after it was reported he told regional leaders the U.S. will recognize Jerusalem as the official capital of Israel and relocate the U.S. Embassy in the coming months.
"For 70 years, the U.S. has given Israel tacit approval to steal Palestinian land, build illegal Jewish settlements, and deny Palestinians in East Jerusalem and elsewhere their rights. Trump's decision takes these ongoing policies to the next level."
—Rebecca Vilkomerson, Jewish Voice for Peace
The Associated Press reported Tuesday that "Trump has informed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas he intends to move the U.S. Embassy," and Jordan told reporters Trump gave King Abdullah II a similar notice. After the call, "Abbas appealed to the Pope and the Russian, French, and Jordanian leaders to intervene," according to The Independent.
During a Tuesday afternoon press briefing, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders indicated Trump will make the announcement official on Wednesday in a prepared speech. And while Sanders acknowledged that the threat of violence in reaction to the move was considered as part of the president's decision-making process, she said that ultimately Trump is "pretty solid in his thinking." The president is expected to sign a six-month waiver for the Embassy to remain in Tel Aviv until the logistical details of a relocation can be sorted out.
While Israel claimed Jerusalem as its capitol in the late 1960s, Palestinians claim East Jerusalem—which is home to several holy sites for Christians, Jews, and Muslims—as their own. Critics of the decision worry it will further inflame decades-long tensions, tighten the grip of Israel's stranglehold on the Occupied Territories, and further embolden the right-wing Likkud government.
"For 70 years, the U.S. has given Israel tacit approval to steal Palestinian land, build illegal Jewish settlements, and deny Palestinians in East Jerusalem and elsewhere their rights," said Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) executive director Rebecca Vilkomerson. "Trump's decision takes these ongoing policies to the next level and is reckless, irresponsible, and endangers the lives of Palestinians and Israelis."
"Jerusalem is a symbol of holiness and hope for many people of many religions the world over," said Rabbi Alissa Wise, the deputy director of JVP. "We want there to be a shared and peaceful Jerusalem."
While Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the relocation would cross a "red line" for Muslims, Palestinian-American journalist Ali Abunimah cautioned against using such language, tweeting:
Also, Trump moving embassy to Jerusalem cannot harm “peace process,” because unless you believe in fairy tales, there is no “peace process.” https://t.co/gggP3rxg5H
— Ali Abunimah (@AliAbunimah) December 5, 2017
Yousef Munayyer, executive director of US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, called the decision "both morally wrong and politically dangerous."
"Not only is Donald Trump deliberately insulting the Palestinian people, but also Arabs and Muslims around the world. In doing so, he is relinquishing what little credibility the United States had left in a region that is already rife with conflict and division," Munayyer said. "The United States has attempted to shepherd the so-called 'peace process' on the basis that it can play the role of mediator but by clearly adopting an Israeli position as its own, it makes clear it is not even pretending anymore."
The United Nations told the AP Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is against any action with regard to Jerusalem that could undermine a two-state solution to the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric saying Tuesday that "we've always regarded Jerusalem as a final status issue that must be resolved through direct negotiations by the two parties based on relevant Security Council resolutions."
Saeb Erekat, the secretary general of the PLO Executive Committee and a former chief Palestinian negotiator, told Haaretz that the decision will make the United States unfit to mediate future negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.
Erekat said the move "directly encourages the colonialist occupation whose purpose is to trigger wars and to sow an ethnic and religious conflict, in a manner that does not befit the national interests of the American people."
He warned that such a decision "will contribute to 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."