Arab and Muslim opposition was building Tuesday to any possible U.S. recognition of contested Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, as European leaders expressed concern about harm to fragile Mideast peace efforts.
Turkey threatened to cut ties with Israel, the Palestinians warned they would halt contacts with their U.S. counterparts — and key Washington ally Saudi Arabia spoke out strongly against such a possible step.
The official Palestinian news agency says President Donald Trump informed Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas of his plans to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to contested Jerusalem.
The WAFA agency says Trump informed Abbas of his decision in a phone call Tuesday. Abbas spokesman Nabil Abu Rdeneh says Abbas warned Trump of the dangers of such a decision to Mideast peace efforts as well as security and stability in the region and the world.
French President Emmanuel Macron said he reminded Trump in a phone call Monday night that the fate of Jerusalem should be determined in negotiations on setting up a Palestinian state alongside Israel.
Macron said in a statement Tuesday that he expressed concern about any possible unilateral U.S. moves and that he agreed with Trump “to speak again shortly on this subject.”
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, who was meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in Brussels, said any actions that undermine Mideast peace efforts “must be absolutely avoided.”
Jerusalem is home to the third holiest shrine of Islam, along with the holiest site in Judaism and major Christian holy sites. It forms the combustible center of the Israeli-Arab conflict. Any perceived harm to Muslim claims to the city has triggered large-scale protests in the past, both in the Holy Land and across the region.
U.S. officials have said the U.S. president may recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital this week as a way to offset his likely decision to delay his campaign promise of moving the U.S. Embassy there. Trump’s point-man on the Middle East, son-in-law Jared Kushner, later said the president hasn’t decided yet what steps to take.
Meanwhile, the Trump administration appeared to have missed a statutory deadline to sign a new waiver keeping the U.S. Embassy in Israel in Tel Aviv.
The deadline came and went without any White House announcement about whether Trump had signed a waiver. Without the waiver, by the law the embassy is supposed to move to Jerusalem. The White House said Monday that Trump was still deciding.
The implications of missing the deadline are unclear. Lawyers have said there’s some flexibility in the exact timing. Congress could withhold State Department funding for overseas facilities but is unlikely to do so. The Trump administration has blown through many other congressional deadlines without consequence in the past.
At the same time, the prospect of Trump recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital has triggered mounting opposition in the Arab and Muslim world.
On Monday, the Organization for Islamic Cooperation, which has 57 member states, said U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital would constitute “naked aggression” against the Muslim and Arab world.
Story by The Associated Press