The US State Department is reportedly bracing for violence at its embassies and consulates should President Donald Trump follow through on his reported intention to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
Diplomats fear an announcement by Trump, expected in a major policy speech Wednesday, could provoke anger in the Muslim world, setting off protests at US missions around the world, the Politico news site reported Monday.
At least two classified cables have been sent to embassies and consulates warning them of potential danger and advising they ramp up security, the report said.
“The impending Jerusalem announcement has me very worried about the possibility of violent responses that could affect embassies,” the site quoted a State Department official as saying.
World leaders have warned Trump that breaking with decades of US policy and shifting Washington’s position on Israel’s capital — as well as possibly moving the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem — could spark violence.
The Hamas terror group, which controls Gaza, called Saturday for a new intifada if Washington recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel or moves its embassy there.
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman on Monday brushed aside warnings of violence by Palestinians and the wider Arab world, saying Israel will “know how to deal with all the ramifications” of any US police shift.
Though heavily fortified, US missions have been the target of violent mobs angry at Washington in the past, including protests outside embassies in 2012 following the release of a movie critical of the prophet Muhammad.
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.
Palestinian officials have said that moving the embassy would scuttle attempts to revive Israeli-Palestinian peace talks led by Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and adviser. Kushner, in a rare public appearance this weekend, said he was optimistic about restarting the talks.
Significantly, Saudi Arabia on Monday also warned against recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Kushner has become close to the Saudi crown prince, Muhammad bin Salman, and has sought his help in advancing the peace process.
“Any US announcement on the status of Jerusalem prior to a final settlement would have a detrimental impact on the peace process and would heighten tensions in the region,” Saudi Ambassador to the US Prince Khalid bin Salman, the crown prince’s brother, was quoted by Reuters as saying.
The Arab League said it was closely watching Trump’s moves on Jerusalem, with leader Ahmed Abul Gheit warning that recognizing the city as Israel’s capital would pose a threat “to the stability of the Middle East and the whole world.”
“It will not serve peace or stability, instead it will nourish fanaticism and violence,” he said on Sunday, noting that the League was following the issue and would coordinate a joint position with Palestinian and Arab leaders if Trump took the step.
Jordan’s Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi also warned that any change to the status of Jerusalem would have “grave consequences,” in a phone conversation with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Sunday.
It was crucial, he said, “to preserve the historical and legal status of Jerusalem and refrain from any decision that aims to change that status,” the official Petra news agency reported.
The Organization of Islamic Cooperation said Monday that recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital would be an act of “naked aggression” that would cause the United States to lose “its mediating role” in the Middle East, after an emergency meeting at the OIC headquarters in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.