Arab League warns Trump against recognizing Jerusalem as Israeli capital

Chief of pan-Arab body says change in US policy regarding contested city will boost violence, destabilize region

A picture from November 19, 2017, shows a general view of the Arab League headquarters during a meeting in the Egyptian capital Cairo. (AFP/Khaled Desouki)
A picture from November 19, 2017, shows a general view of the Arab League headquarters during a meeting in the Egyptian capital Cairo. (AFP/Khaled Desouki)

The Arab League chief said on Sunday a decision by US President Donald Trump to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital would boost fanaticism and violence, and not serve the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

Trump’s son-in-law and Middle East peace envoy Jared Kushner told the Saban Forum on Sunday the president is close to a decision on whether to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital but has yet to make up his mind.

“It is unfortunate that some are insisting on carrying out this step without any regard to the dangers it carries to the stability of the Middle East and the whole world,” Ahmed Abul Gheit, head of the Arab League, told reporters in Cairo on Sunday.

“Nothing justifies this act… it will not serve peace or stability, instead it will nourish fanaticism and violence,” Abul Gheit said.

He added that the Arab League is closely following the issue and is in contact with the Palestinian authorities and Arab states to coordinate the Arab position if Trump takes the step.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas echoed the sentiment, warning the White House earlier on Sunday that the move would jeopardize the administration’s nascent peace efforts in the Mideast.

White House adviser Jared Kushner addresses the Saban Forum in Washington, DC, on December 3, 2017. (YouTube screenshot)

“Any American step related to the recognition of Jerusalem as capital of Israel, or moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem, represents a threat to the future of the peace process and is unacceptable for the Palestinians, Arabs and internationally,” Abbas told a group of visiting Arab lawmakers from Israel, according to the official Wafa news agency.

Meanwhile, Abbas called eight Arab and world leaders and urged them to work to prevent the relocation of the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and a declaration by Trump acknowledging Jerusalem as the Israeli capital.

In a tweet, Jordan’s foreign minister said he urged US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson of the “dangerous consequences” of recognizing Jerusalem as capital of Israel.

“Such a decision would trigger anger across Arab Muslim worlds, fuel tension & jeopardize peace efforts,” Ayman Safadi wrote.

As of Sunday, Trump had not signed a waiver delaying the move of the embassy by another six months, and he has only until Monday to do so. A stream of media reports in recent days have indicated that the president intends to declare this week that he considers Jerusalem to be Israel’s capital, and possibly announce the embassy move.

A 1995 law requires the relocation of the US Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, but provides the president with the prerogative to postpone the move every six months on national security grounds. Each of Trump’s three immediate predecessors — Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama — repeatedly exercised that right.

US President Donald Trump visits the Western Wall, Monday, May 22, 2017, in Jerusalem. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

The Israeli government has long sought for the US to relocate its embassy and for the international community to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Last week, US Vice President Mike Pence said Trump “is actively considering when and how to move the American embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.” Pence spoke at a gathering of UN ambassadors, diplomats and Jewish leaders at an event in New York commemorating the 70th anniversary of the UN vote for partition of Palestine, which led to the creation of the State of Israel.

Declaring Jerusalem as Israel’s capital would be a highly controversial move, with the potential to spark unrest in the Middle East. The Wall Street Journal reported that US officials were contacting embassies in the region warning them to prepare for the possibility of violent protests.

A presidential declaration could risk producing an angry response from the Palestinians and other Arab allies, like Jordan and Saudi Arabia, just as the Trump White House is preparing to move forward with its attempts to broker a Mideast peace accord.

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