US asks Israel to ‘restrain’ response to Jerusalem announcement

Diplomatic document cites expected ‘resistance’ to move; paper also offers talking points to US envoys in Europe: ‘This is a unique administration. It makes bold moves’

Washington has asked Israel to restrain its response to US President Donald Trump’s official recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, citing the sensitivity of the matter and the volatile response it will likely elicit, Reuters reported Wednesday night.

A State Department document obtained by the news agency instructs US diplomatic staff in Israel on the message that is to be delivered to Israeli leadership.

“While I recognize that you will publicly welcome this news, I ask that you restrain your official response,” a talking point in the document says.

“We expect there to be resistance to this news in the Middle East and around the world. We are still judging the impact this decision will have on US facilities and personnel overseas.”

The document also carries talking points for diplomats in Europe, who are encouraged to convey to EU governments that Trump’s statement did not in any way predetermine Jerusalem’s final status, a matter will still need to be determined in negotiations.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, and US President Donald Trump shake hands at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, May 23, 2017. (AP/Sebastian Scheiner)

“We are asking you to amplify the reality that Jerusalem is still a final status issue between Israelis and Palestinians and that the parties must resolve the dimensions of Israel’s sovereignty in Jerusalem during their negotiations,” the paper says.

It also seeks to explain what many European leaders see as a rash and irresponsible move by Trump.

“You know that this is a unique Administration. It makes bold moves. But it is bold moves that are going to be needed if peace efforts are finally going to be successful,” US diplomats are asked to tell their EU counterparts.

A second document says the Department has formed a task force to “track worldwide developments” following the announcement.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin praised Trump for  his “historic” decision, insisting the move will not hurt peace efforts with the Palestinians.

Netanyahu said Israel was “profoundly grateful” to the US president for his “courageous and just” decision to both recognize the capital and kick off preparations to relocate the US embassy from Tel Aviv.

Rivlin said “There is no more fitting or beautiful gift, as we approach 70 years of the State of Israel’s independence.”

The move was praised by ministers as well as leading members of the opposition.

Around the world, however, the decision was met with widespread condemnation and concern, as well as warnings it could lead to renewed unrest and bloodshed.

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