Israel said bracing for Palestinian reaction to Trump’s Jerusalem decision

West Bank leadership expected to ignite protests if US alters status of capital, while Hamas could stage terror attacks, defense officials say

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

US President Donald Trump speaks at the Rotunda of the Utah State Capitol, in Salt Lake City, Utah, December 4, 2017. (George Frey/Getty Images/AFP)
US President Donald Trump speaks at the Rotunda of the Utah State Capitol, in Salt Lake City, Utah, December 4, 2017. (George Frey/Getty Images/AFP)

Defense officials are reportedly bracing for violent protests and terror attacks should the Trump administration recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital or move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to the city.

The Israel Police, the Shin Bet security service, and the IDF’s Central Command have held meetings in recent days to review possible scenarios in the event US President Donald Trump follows through on his reported intention to change America’s policy on the capital, the Hebrew daily Yedioth Ahronoth reported Tuesday.

Palestinian officials have said that moving the embassy would scuttle attempts — led by Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and adviser — to revive peace talks. Kushner, in a rare public appearance this weekend, said he was optimistic about restarting the talks.

Trump is expected to make an announcement on Jerusalem in a major policy speech Wednesday.

Israel gained control of East Jerusalem during the Six Day War in 1967 and extended its sovereignty there in 1980, an effective annexation that remains unrecognized by the international community. Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.

Security officials told Yedioth that, so far, the fiery rhetoric from Palestinian leaders warning against changing the status of Jerusalem has not been enough to ignite violence. But the situation could change very rapidly, they were quoted as saying, even without a call for action from the Palestinian Authority.

Palestinian media, which has been stirring emotions on the matter, could alone set off protests even before Trump announces a decision, the report said.

Palestinian demonstrators attempt to block a road ahead of Israeli police cars outside Lions Gate, a main entrance to Jerusalem’s Old City near the Temple Mount compound, July 22, 2017. (AFP/Ahmad Gharabli)

Israeli security officials expect a backlash both from established terror groups and lone wolf attackers, the report said. The leaders of the protests are expected to be the PA’s Jerusalem mufti, Mohammed Hussein; the head of the Supreme Islamic Committee in Jerusalem, Sheikh Ekrima Sabri, and Sheikh Omar al-Kiswani, who directs the al-Aqsa mosque on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. The three led protests earlier this year when metal detectors were installed at the Temple Mount following a deadly terror attack there.

The protests, held outside the Old City, were violent at times, and the metal detectors were eventually removed.

Whatever happens on the street, officials believe the PA will still want to maintain a lid on the situation and keep it from spiraling into chaos, the report said.

Trump, who campaigned on a promise of moving the embassy, walked it back after assuming the presidency. Recent reports say that he was unhappy with his first waiver issued in June and wants to go ahead and recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. There have been conflicting details as to what such a recognition would encompass, and whether it would involve moving the embassy.

A deadline on signing a waiver to delay moving the embassy passed Monday without any US move on the issue.

The Jerusalem issue is coming up as the terror group Hamas is preparing to mark its 30th anniversary on December 14.

Officials already expect Hamas to try to carry out a major terror attack to coincide with the celebrations, in an attempt to reinforce its position as leader of the armed struggle against Israel. Hamas, which seeks Israel’s destruction, has recently been seen by Palestinians as for now preferring to seek diplomatic ties with moderate Arab states, such Egypt and Saudi Arabia, over further armed conflict at this time with the Jewish state.

Security officials said that a US decision that antagonizes the Palestinians could give Hamas a pretext to urge violence and so-called “days of rage” against Israel.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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