A possible compromise over moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem could see Donald Trump’s ambassador working from an existing US consulate in the capital while the embassy itself remains in Tel Aviv, Israeli television reported on Tuesday.
Quoting unnamed Israeli Foreign Ministry officials, Channel 2 news said intended ambassador David Friedman, who has said he looks forward to working from the US embassy in Jerusalem, might instead merely work from the city with a small staff, while the Tel Aviv embassy remains intact and most of its operations and staff stay there.
The report noted that building contractors in neighborhoods near the existing consulate in Talpiot have received calls recently from would-be buyers seeking luxury homes for Americans.
In marked contrast to the talk of a compromise idea, however, CNN reported that Trump was pushing ahead with plans for the embassy move and telling allies that it will go ahead.
There is speculation the announcement of the move could be made on May 24, when Israel celebrates Jerusalem Day, marking the unification of the city in 1967, CNN reported on Tuesday. That date would be a few days before a waiver signed by President Barack Obama on moving the embassy expires.
European and Arab diplomats have warned Trump against the move, saying it could ignite the region. “It’s very dangerous,” a European diplomat told CNN.
Palestinian leaders on Tuesday called for prayers at mosques across the Middle East this week to protest plans by Trump to move the embassy.
Over the weekend, outgoing Secretary of State John Kerry warned that moving the embassy — and this effectively recognizing Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem — would cause “an explosion” in the region and have a detrimental effect on Israel’s relationships with Jordan and Egypt.
In an interview with CBS News, Kerry said the move 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.
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.
Some Israeli reports have quoted relatives of the terrorist who rammed his truck into Israeli soldiers in East Talpiot on Sunday, killing four of them, had been impacted by one such sermon at his local mosque.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Friday 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 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.”