The Latest: US warns citizens ahead of Jerusalem move

The Palestinian, Jordanian and Egyptian governments said that President Trump called them Tuesday to inform them he intends to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, a step that could upend the White House’s peace efforts and spark regional unrest.

“Mr. Trump told our president he was going to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem,” said Nabil Shaath, an adviser to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas who said Abbas had personally briefed him on the call. Trump did not give a time frame, Shaath said.

Trump also told Abbas that, in exchange, the United States would make future moves that he thought would please the Palestinian people, although he did not offer details, according to Shaath. “Our president said, ‘You don’t have anything that would make up for this on Jerusalem.’ He said, ‘Definitely, we will not accept it.’ ”

Abbas warned Trump that he was “playing into the hands of extremism,” but Trump “just went on saying he had to do it,” Shaath said.

The Egyptian government said Trump also called President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi to discuss the plan to move the embassy. Sissi “reiterated Egypt’s unwavering position with regard to maintaining the legal status of Jerusalem within the framework of international references and relevant U.N. resolutions,” it said in a statement.

Jordan’s King Abdullah III said it would undermine U.S. efforts to resume the peace process, according to news reports. 

In Riyadh, the Saudi Press Agency said that King Salman bin Abdul Aziz had received a call from Trump, as well, and that the two discussed the potential moves. Using the Arabic name for Jerusalem, the king “reiterated that such a dangerous step of relocation or recognition of Al-Quds as the capital of Israel would constitute a flagrant provocation of Muslims, all over the world,” the agency said.

The White House said a call was also scheduled with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. A spokesman for his office declined to comment.

Administration officials refused to comment on any of the calls or to clarify whether the president, who has said for months he hopes to relocate the embassy, plans to enact the change in the near future.

The calls came amid expectation of a U.S. policy shift on its recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Shaath said Trump spoke with Abbas about moving the embassy rather than about recognizing Jerusalem, but moving the mission would effectively do that anyway. The White House let a Monday deadline for signing a waiver that allows the embassy to remain in Tel Aviv pass overnight but said Trump was still deciding on the next U.S. move. That could include formally recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital but holding back on moving the embassy.

The waiver has been signed every six months by U.S. presidents for more than two decades. 

Muslim tourists from India view the Old City of Jerusalem on Tuesday, with the Dome of the Rock, one of Islam’s holiest sites, in the distance. (Jim Hollander/European Pressphoto Agency-EFE/Rex/Shutterstock)

No other countries have their embassies in Jerusalem, with a long-standing international consensus that the city’s status should be decided in a peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians. Israel regards the city as its undivided capital, while Palestinians see majority-Arab East Jerusalem as the seat of their future state.

Palestinian factions jointly announced three “days of rage,” beginning Wednesday, to protest the potential U.S. embassy move and recognition of Jerusalem. In a statement they called on supporters around the world to gather in city centers and at Israeli embassies and consulates to voice their anger.

In a statement late Tuesday, the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem urged American citizens in Israel to avoid large crowds or areas where security had been increased and ordered its staff members and their families to avoid Jerusalem’s Old City and the West Bank except for “essential” business.

The backlash from other Middle East nations was mounting Tuesday.

Speaking to the Turkish parliament, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that American recognition of Jerusalem would be a “red line” for Muslims, possibly forcing Turkey to cut diplomatic ties with Israel that were recently renewed after a six-year hiatus. 

In Cairo, the chief of the Arab League, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, warned that any step by the United States that changed Jerusalem’s legal and political status would be a “dangerous measure that would have repercussions” across the Mideast.

Deputy White House press secretary Hogan Gidley said Monday that a decision on the waiver was imminent. 

“The president has been clear on this issue from the get-go — that it’s not a matter of if, but a matter of when,” he said.

Palestinian officials have complained that a decision to move the embassy will end the United States’ role as a broker for the peace process, just as the White House is attempting to come up with a plan. Trump reluctantly signed the routine waiver six months ago.

Shaath called the embassy move symbolic, saying the “real question” is whether the United States will recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Doing so would be “very destructive,” he said.

“The mother of all deals seems to die on the rocks of Jerusalem,” Shaath said. “There is no deal of the century that starts with destroying the essence of a two-state solution.”

After the Turkish president’s speech, Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs responded in a statement: “Jerusalem is the capital of the Jewish people for 3,000 years and Israel’s capital for the last 70 years, regardless of whether it is recognized by Erdogan or not.”

Among the regional statements of support for the Palestinians, Shaath said, has been an assurance by Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to Abbas during the Palestinian leader’s recent visit to Riyadh that there would be no normalization of ties between the Arab states of the Persian Gulf and Israel without a resolution of the Palestinian issue. 

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi have also spoken to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson about the decision. In a tweet Monday night, Safadi said he had warned that recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital “would trigger anger across the Arab, Muslim worlds, fuel tension and jeopardize peace efforts.”

 However, Shaath said, Palestinian officials remain concerned about shifting priorities on the part of Persian Gulf countries, whose interests are aligned with Israel’s in countering their shared enemy, Iran. 

 “I hope Iran won’t be a pretext for abandoning Palestine,” he said.

European leaders also have urged Trump not to make any radical changes regarding the Jerusalem’s status. French President Emmanuel Macron told him in a telephone call that the city’s status needed to be decided in peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians.

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said in an address at the Berlin Foreign Policy Forum that such a decision would have “far-reaching consequences” and could prove “counterproductive.”

Trump’s failure to sign a waiver Monday was seen by some Israelis as a positive sign. 

“Midnight passed and no Jerusalem embassy waiver was signed, which means the law will take full effect,” said Eugene Kontorovich, head of international law at the Kohelet Policy Forum, a right-wing think tank in Jerusalem. “The president has begun the process of moving the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.” 

Anne Gearan in Berlin, David Nakamura in Washington and Heba Farouk Mahfouz in Cairo contributed to this report. 

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