Moving the US Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem would cause “an explosion” in the region and have a detrimental effect on Israel’s relationships with Jordan and Egypt, outgoing US Secretary of State John Kerry said over the weekend.
In an interview with CBS News on Friday, Kerry said the move promised by President-elect Donald Trump would cause “an explosion, an absolute explosion in the region, not just in the West Bank, and perhaps even in Israel itself, but throughout the region.”
It would also “have profound impact on the readiness of Jordan and Egypt to be able to be supportive and engaged with Israel as they are today,” he warned.
Kerry also said any alternative to the two-state solution “would be extraordinarily dangerous for Israel, our friend… The simple reality is you cannot be unitary — one state — with more non-Jews than Jews and remain a democracy or a Jewish state. It’s impossible. You can’t do it.”
Trump and his team have spoken repeatedly of his intention to relocate the embassy to Israel’s capital, leading to wall-to-wall condemnations from Palestinian leaders.
On Friday the issue was the chief subject of religious sermons throughout the West Bank, with Palestinian Authority leadership instructing mosques it controls to focus on the matter, Israel Radio reported.
Official Palestinian television also broadcast excerpts from several such sermons, in which clerics urged their followers to wake up to the danger. One warned relocating the embassy would be an attack on the Muslim faith and against history. Another said it was an assault on Islam’s holy place and on Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Meanwhile top Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said PA leaders remained willing to meet their Israeli counterparts for direct talks in Moscow, as reportedly suggested late last year by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Erekat claimed PA President Mahmoud Abbas had agreed to such a meeting, but said Putin’s offer had been rebuffed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
On Friday Abbas warned Trump not to move the embassy. He invited Trump to visit the Palestinian territories, but also said: “We call on you not to implement your statement… because we consider it as an aggressive statement, when you say you want to move the embassy to Jerusalem.”
The PA president said moving the embassy would throw the peace process into a crisis it would not necessarily overcome, according to Israel Radio.
The Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as their intended capital. An American decision to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem would signal US acceptance of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The status of Jerusalem is one of the core issues that would need to be resolved in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations on Palestinian statehood.
Israel annexed East Jerusalem and the Old City after capturing the areas in the 1967 war. The UN Security Council last month branded all such land occupied Palestinian territory — a designation furiously rejected by Netanyahu, who ridiculed the notion that the Temple Mount and Western Wall could be defined in this way. The US abstained in the vote, allowing the resolution to pass, infuriating Israel, and drawing criticism from Trump.
Abbas said Friday that any action that affects the status of Jerusalem would cross a red line and that the Palestinians would not put up with it.
Palestinian negotiator Erekat said last month that 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.
In a statement issued by the Trump transition team days earlier announcing David Friedman as Trump’s choice for ambassador to Israel, Friedman said he aimed to “strengthen the bond between our two countries and advance the cause of peace within the region,” and that he looked “forward to doing this from the US embassy in Israel’s eternal capital, Jerusalem.”
Trump’s campaign manager Kellyanne Conway said on December 12 that moving the embassy “is very big priority for this president-elect, Donald Trump.” Conway told radio host Hugh Hewitt in a lengthy interview: “He made it very clear during the campaign, and as president-elect, I’ve heard him repeat it several times privately, if not publicly.”