Vociferous Arab and Muslim opposition is building to any possible US recognition of contested Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, as European leaders expressed concern about harm to fragile Middle East peace efforts.
President Donald Trump informed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in a phone call on Tuesday that he intends to move the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a holy city whose Israeli-annexed eastern sector the Palestinians seek as a future capital.
Mr Abbas’s office said the Palestinian leader warned Mr Trump of dangerous repercussions for Middle East peace efforts, as well as security and stability in the region and the world.
The statement did not say if Mr Trump gave a timeline for the intended move.
US officials familiar with planning for a possible announcement on Jerusalem said they expect Mr Trump to speak on the matter on Wednesday, although the specifics of what he will say were still being debated.
The officials, along with an outside adviser to the administration, said they expected Mr Trump would make a generic statement about Jerusalem’s status as the “capital of Israel”.
They said they did not expect the president to use the phrase “undivided capital”, which would imply Israeli sovereignty over east Jerusalem, which is not recognised by the United Nations.
They also said Mr Trump planned to sign a waiver delaying for another six months a US legal requirement to move the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
But they said Mr Trump would probably give wide latitude to David Friedman, the US ambassador to Israel, to make a determination on when such a move would be appropriate.
Mr Friedman has spoken in favour of the move.
As discussions continued on Tuesday, pressure from numerous quarters against full-on recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital appeared to have led to the possibility that Mr Trump include comments in his speech that might mitigate the impact of the announcement.
Among the ideas under discussion were Mr Trump giving a nod to Palestinian aspirations to have the capital of an eventual state in east Jerusalem or endorsing the concept of a two-state solution, something he has yet to do. It remained unclear whether any such comments would be included.
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 centre 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.