Warnings of violence ahead of Trump’s Jerusalem embassy move

President’s expected announcement risks provoking fury in Arab world

Jerusalem is claimed by both Israel and Palestine
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Donald Trump is expected to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel today and to announce that he is moving the American Embassy there from Tel Aviv.

By upending nearly seven decades of American foreign policy, the US president is “potentially destroying his efforts to broker peace between Israel and the Palestinians”, says The New York Times.

Israel regards Jerusalem as its capital, but Palestine lays claim to the eastern part of the city. The US and most other countries currently base their embassies in Tel Aviv in order to avoid compromising any future negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian territories over the city's status.

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Today the Israeli Right hailed Trump's “historic” decision to relocate to Jerusalem, while the Left predicted regional chaos, The Jerusalem Post reports.

“US embassies around the world [are] bolstering security, and American government employees have been told to avoid Jerusalem’s Old City and the West Bank until further notice,” says The Guardian.

Palestine's President Mahmoud Abbas has warned Trump that recognising Jerusalem is a risk to Middle East peace efforts and to regional and global security. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia’s state media reports that King Salman told the US president that “such a dangerous step is likely to inflame the passions of Muslims around the world due to the great status of Jerusalem and the al-Aqsa Mosque”.

Palestinian national and Islamic groups have issued a joint statement calling for three days of “popular anger” throughout the Palestinian territories, beginning today, and for demonstrations at US embassies and consulates around the world.

However, Trump’s decision has been applauded by some commentators in the US, as well as in Israel, even if “Netanyahu and the Israeli government were studiously silent in advance of the president’s speech”, says The New York TImes.

“The US recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is a positive and important step, particularly amid Palestinian efforts to undermine the historic ties between the Jewish nation and the City of David,” said Amos Yadlin, the executive director of Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies.

White House officials say moving the US embassy to Jerusalem would take about three years.

Republican bill to move US embassy to Jerusalem ‘could spark violence’

4 January

Three Republican senators have introduced a bill to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's official capital and transfer the US embassy there from Tel Aviv, breaking with longstanding US policy.

"Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the Jewish state of Israel and that's where America's embassy belongs," said Marco Rubio of Florida, unveiling the Jerusalem Embassy and Recognition Act alongside Ted Cruz of Texas and Dean Heller of Nevada.

The act also includes provisions to "withhold a portion of the State Department budget until the move is made", the Washington Times says.

Israel treats Jerusalem as its capital but as Palestinians claim part of the eastern half of the city, the US and most other countries have their embassies in Tel Aviv to avoid compromising any future negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian territories over the city's status.

Similar proposals by Republicans over the past 20 years have been blocked by successive presidents. However, "this time they have a sympathetic president-elect in [Donald] Trump", The Guardian says.

Trump, who takes office on 20 January, has repeatedly expressed his desire to move the embassy, "a position he shares with his nominee for Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, a New York bankruptcy lawyer", Fox News says.

Senior Palestinian officials have warned "the move could provoke regional violence", adds the Guardian, while the Jerusalem Post reports that Sultan Abu al-Einein, a senior member of the Fatah Central Committee, believes "any American act of stupidity will ignite the Palestinian territories" and potentially destroy the peace process.

"We must prepare for a confrontation with the new US administration," Al-Einein said, adding that Israel and the US "will bear responsibility for the return of the bloodshed in the Palestinian territories".

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