IDF: Proposed US embassy move not roiling Palestinian street
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IDF: Proposed US embassy move not roiling Palestinian street

Intelligence officer: Palestinians more concerned about the Gaza Strip’s electricity woes than ‘who sits in the White House’

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

Israelis waiting for US visas line up at the US Embassy in Tel Aviv. (photo credit: AP/Eitan Hess-Ashkenazi/File)
Israelis waiting for US visas line up at the US Embassy in Tel Aviv. (photo credit: AP/Eitan Hess-Ashkenazi/File)

The Palestinian Authority might see the proposed transfer of the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem as a “declaration of war,” but average Palestinians don’t seem as aggravated by the notion, an IDF intelligence officer said Thursday.

The officer, speaking on condition of anonymity as per army regulations, said the conversation on the Palestinian street revolves more around its own internal problems.

“The facts don’t show that there’s a big trend here” of Palestinians fretting about the move, the IDF Central Command officer told reporters.

“The daily conversation in the West Bank is mainly about the electricity shortage in the Gaza Strip, not the embassy,” he said.

Arab and Western leaders have warned of an “explosion” should US President Donald Trump make good on his campaign promise to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, with some Palestinians officials calling it a declaration of war.

While the White House has tamped down on expectations that the move may be in the offing — with press secretary Sean Spicer saying earlier this week that “there’s no decision” on the issue — the issue has remained a thorn in Arab leaders’ sides, with near daily condemnations and warnings.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump meeting at the Trump Tower in New York, September 25, 2016. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump meeting at the Trump Tower in New York, September 25, 2016. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

Many Israeli elected officials have expressed enthusiasm for the move, which they say would constitute official recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish state.

Today, even Israel’s allies do not see it as such, saying the issue must be subject to negotiations with the Palestinians, who have claimed East Jerusalem as capital of a future state.

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat has come out as a staunch proponent of the relocation, starting a social media campaign aimed at swaying Trump to go ahead with the measure.

Palestinians, meanwhile, have hinted that such a move would result in violence.

“In our opinion moving the embassy to Jerusalem is a declaration of war against Muslims,” Fatah Central Committee member Jibril Rajoub told The Times of Israel in an interview earlier this week.

Palestinian Football Association (PFA) head Jibril Rajoub holds a press conference on October 12, 2016 in the West Bank city of Ramallah. (Abbas Momani/AFP)
Palestinian Football Association (PFA) head Jibril Rajoub holds a press conference on October 12, 2016 in the West Bank city of Ramallah. (Abbas Momani/AFP)

“We are talking about a dangerous step that won’t bring stability to the ground,” he continued, adding that “it contradicts previous United Nations resolutions and the policy of the United States since 1967.”

The Jordanians, who have remained diplomatically engaged in issues surrounding Jerusalem, have also spoken out against the proposed move.

In a meeting with PA President Mahmoud Abbas, King Abdullah II of Jordan said earlier this week that such a step would be “crossing a red line.”

Jordan's King Abdullah II (R) talks with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas before a meeting at the Royal Palace in Amman on November 12, 2014. (AFP PHOTO/KHALIL MAZRAAWI)
Jordan’s King Abdullah II (R) talks with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas before a meeting at the Royal Palace in Amman on November 12, 2014. (AFP PHOTO/KHALIL MAZRAAWI)

The officer, wary of sounding political, was reluctant to say definitively what the army believed would happen if the embassy were to move.

“I prepare myself for every scenario, so I don’t look at a specific question,” he said.

But, the intelligence officer noted, while Arab leadership has condemned the proposal in no uncertain terms, that anger has not seemed to trickle down to the average Palestinian.

Unlike in the past, which saw violence directed by larger Palestinian political and terrorist organizations, a spate of stabbings, car-rammings and shootings since 2015 have come from so-called “lone wolves,” individuals with few ties to such groups who decide to strike independently.

Despite seeming muted concern over the move by Palestinians, the officer still warned that violence could erupt at any moment.

“People always try to tie terror attacks to a specific event,” he said.

“This place creates challenges without connection to what happens in the United States, regardless of who sits in the White House.”

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