Arab warnings mount as US suggests shift to name Jerusalem as Israeli capital

With the Palestinian city of Nablus in the background, Israeli students from Ariel University pose for photographs last month with an Israeli flag on Mount Kabir, near the West Bank settlement of Elon Moreh.


By LOVEDAY MORRIS | The Washington Post | Published: December 4, 2017

JERUSALEM — Arab nations and Palestinian officials have warned of dire consequences if the United States recognizes Jerusalem as Israel's capital, including potential unrest and an end to the peace process, amid last minute lobbying to prevent President Donald Trump from making the move.

In a late night call Sunday, the Jordan's foreign minister, Ayman Safadi, warned Secretary of State Rex Tillerson that such a decision could "trigger anger across the Arab and Muslim world, fuel tension and jeopardize peace efforts," according to Jordan's state news agency.

Egypt's foreign minister, Sameh Shoukry, also discussed the "possible negative impacts" on peace with Tillerson, according to a foreign ministry spokesman. He asked that Tillerson avoid taking decisions which could "stir tensions in the region".

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyadh Malki called for an emergency meeting of the 22 members of the Arab League, which is expected to take place Tuesday.

For more than two decades, successive U.S. presidents have signed a waiver every six months that allows them to delay a move of the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem on national security grounds.

Israel claims Jerusalem in its entirety as its eternal and undivided capital, but Palestinians want East Jerusalem to be the capital of a future Palestinian state. During his campaign Trump promised he would relocate the U.S. Embassy, but reluctantly signed the waiver six months ago as his administration attempts to broker a peace process.

But Palestinians face a challenge in garnering genuinely robust opposition at a time when Arab States increasingly see their security interests aligned with Israel in order to curb their shared enemy, Iran.

Speaking at the Knesset on Monday Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed an "unprecedented" shift in the attitude of Arab States toward Israel.

The regional power broker Saudi Arabia has yet to issue a public statement condemning a possible U.S. decision on Jerusalem. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and presidential adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner reportedly held late night discussions on Middle East strategy.

Kushner on Sunday said that Trump is "close" to making a decision on whether to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel but is "still looking at a lot of facts."

The White House is mulling a proposal to delay moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, but as a compromise measure make a formal declaration that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel.

Palestinian officials have warned that a declaration of Jerusalem's capital will mark the end of any U.S.-brokered peace efforts.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas last month expressed surprise after the U.S. threatened to close down the Palestine Liberation Organization's Washington office unless the Palestinians engaged in meaningful peace talks.

The State Department has warned embassies of potential unrest and anti-American protests this week related to an announcement, according to U.S. officials.


The Washington Post's Heba Farouk Mahfouz contributed from Cairo.

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