Palestinians: Trump embassy decision shows his commitment to peace
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Palestinians: Trump embassy decision shows his commitment to peace

Jordan also praises president for waiving embassy's relocation to Jerusalem, says it shows he 'values the advice of allies'

US President Donald Trump, left, and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas shake hands during a joint press conference at the presidential palace in the West Bank city of Bethlehem on May 23, 2017. (AFP/MANDEL NGAN)
US President Donald Trump, left, and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas shake hands during a joint press conference at the presidential palace in the West Bank city of Bethlehem on May 23, 2017. (AFP/MANDEL NGAN)

The Palestinian Authority on Thursday applauded a decision by US President Donald Trump not to move the US embassy to Jerusalem as he had promised during his election campaign, saying it showed the US administration is serious about making peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

In response to Trump’s signing earlier Thursday of a waiver delaying any measures to relocate the embassy for at least another six months, PA spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh said that it was an “important, positive step” that illustrates the US is serious about promoting peace.

During his trip to the region last month, Trump went to Saudi Arabia, where he attended a summit of Arab states and Muslim leaders, as well as Israel and the West Bank, where he met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. The US president stressed his ambition to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as part of drive towards regional cooperation between moderate states.

Abbas’s office said in a statement that Trump’s embassy waiver was positive, important, and would strengthen the possibility to prepare for peace.

The step highlighted American readiness to create trust, especially after the successful summit in Riyadh and the meeting between Abbas and Trump, the statement said.

Palestinian ambassador to the United States Husam Zomlot noted the waiver is “in line with the long-held US policy and the international consensus and it gives peace a chance.”

“We are ready to start the consultation process with the US administration,” he said. “We are serious and genuine about achieving a just and lasting peace.”

This file photo taken on December 28, 2016, shows the US Embassy building in the Israeli coastal city of Tel Aviv. (AFP Photo/Jack Guez)
This file photo taken on December 28, 2016, shows the US Embassy building in the Israeli coastal city of Tel Aviv. (AFP Photo/Jack Guez)

Israeli officials, led by Netanyahu, have been urging Washington to move the embassy, a measure that would be seen as recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Trump’s renewal of the waiver was met with disappointment from Israeli ministers.

Jordan also welcomed Trump’s decision to delay moving the embassy, saying it sent a valuable message.

The pro-Western kingdom had warned that such a move was a “red line” that would bolster extremists if crossed. Jordan is the religious custodian of the Temple Mount compound in Jerusalem’s Old City, captured by Israel in the 1967 war. More than half of Jordan’s citizens are of Palestinian descent.

US President Donald Trump center seated at the Arabic Islamic American Summit at the King Abdulaziz Conference Center in Riyadh, May 21, 2017. (AFP/MANDEL NGAN)
US President Donald Trump center seated at the Arabic Islamic American Summit at the King Abdulaziz Conference Center in Riyadh, May 21, 2017. (AFP/MANDEL NGAN)

Jordanian government spokesman Mohammed Momani said Thursday that “we strongly welcome the decision and highly value the message it is sending.”

Momani said Trump had shown “how much the administration values the advice of its allies” and that the focus must be on relaunching serious Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

Announcing the waiver extension, the White House insisted the president still stood by his promise to move the embassy.

“President Trump made this decision to maximize the chances of successfully negotiating a deal between Israel and the Palestinians, fulfilling his solemn obligation to defend America’s national security interests. But, as he has repeatedly stated his intention to move the embassy, the question is not if that move happens, but only when,” the White House said in a statement.

Trump was facing a Thursday deadline to renew the waiver or see the US State Department lose half its funding for its overseas facilities.

A 1995 law mandates the relocation of the embassy, but provides the president with the prerogative to postpone the move on national security grounds. Each of Trump’s three immediate predecessors — Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama — repeatedly exercised that right.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) and US President Donald Trump speak at Ben Gurion International Airport prior to the latter's departure from Israel on May 23, 2017. (Koby Gideon/GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) and US President Donald Trump speak at Ben Gurion International Airport prior to the latter’s departure from Israel on May 23, 2017. (Koby Gideon/GPO)

Israel captured East Jerusalem and the West Bank from Jordan during the 1967 Six Day War and later annexed it, a move never recognized by the international community. Israel declared the city its undivided capital, but the Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state.

Moving the US embassy to Jerusalem would be seen as endorsing Israel’s claim to the city and rejecting the Palestinians’. Countries with ties to Israel typically place their embassies in Tel Aviv; some have consulates in Jerusalem.

The US says its policy on Jerusalem hasn’t changed and that Jerusalem’s status must be negotiated between Israelis and Palestinians.

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