Jordan’s government spokesman warned on Thursday of “catastrophic” repercussions if President-elect Donald Trump follows through on a campaign promise to move the US Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.
Such a move could affect relations between the US and regional allies, including Jordan, Information Minister Mohamed Momani told The Associated Press, addressing the issue publicly for the first time.
An embassy move would be a “red line” for Jordan, would “inflame the Islamic and Arab streets” and would serve as a “gift to extremists,” he said, adding that Jordan would use all possible political and diplomatic means to prevent such a decision.
The US considers pro-Western Jordan an important ally in a turbulent Mideast. The Hashemite kingdom is a key member of a US-led military coalition against Islamic State extremists in neighboring Syria and Iraq, and maintains discreet security ties with Israel.
Jordan also has a stake in Jerusalem, serving as custodian of the Temple Mount holy site, revered by both Muslims and Jews.
Israel captured East Jerusalem from Jordan in 1967 and annexed it to its capital. The Palestinians want to establish the capital of a future state in the city’s eastern sector. Addressing the conflicting claims in the city would be central to any renewed Israeli-Palestinian negotiations on the terms of Palestinian statehood.
Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat has said he will resign, the peace process will be over for ever, the PLO will revoke its recognition of Israel and the US will be forced by Arab public opinion to close all its embassies in the Arab world if the Trump administration moves the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Much of the world has not recognized Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem and most countries, including the United States, maintain their embassies in Tel Aviv, Israel’s vibrant commercial center and seaside metropolis.
Momani, the Jordanian minister, said that moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem “will have catastrophic implications on several levels, including the regional situation.” He said countries in the region would likely “think about different things and steps they should take in order to stop this from happening.”
“It will definitely affect the bilateral relationship between countries in the region, including Jordan, and the parties that will be related to such a decision,” he said.
Trump said during the presidential campaign that he intended to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem.
According to reports, Trump’s advisers are already in the process of planning the relocation. Campaign manager and soon-to-be White House counselor Kellyanne Conway last month said relocating the embassy was “a very big priority” for the president-elect.
Trump’s choice for US ambassador in Israel, David Friedman, a vocal supporter and even donor to Israeli settlements in the West Bank, said he expected to carry out his duties in “Israel’s eternal capital, Jerusalem.”
On Tuesday, three US senators introduced legislation that would commit Washington to moving the embassy to the Israeli capital.
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz (R), Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (R) and Nevada Sen. Dean Heller (R) proposed the Jerusalem Embassy and Recognition Act on Tuesday, the first day the new Congress convened on Capitol Hill as Republicans prepare to control the White House, Senate and House of Representatives for the first time since 2007.
The measure is similar to a 1995 resolution, led by former House speaker and current Trump confidant Newt Gingrich, that called for moving the embassy. It was immediately dismissed by then-president Bill Clinton, who wanted the future status of Jerusalem settled in final negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.
Clinton and his two successors — presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama — have repeatedly used the prerogative granted them to delay implementation of that Congressional demand to move the embassy.
But with an incoming president who has indicated he will break with these practices, those pushing for the relocation believe the White House may no longer be an obstacle.