Wednesday, November 22, 2017

US "at the beginning stages" of discussing embassy move to Jerusalem


By Sarah Bedson - January 23, 2017
TAGS:
Section: [Main News]
Tags: [Jerusalem]

Ramallah - When, during his presidential campaign, Donald Trump pledged to move the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem “fairly quickly”, many brushed off his statement as an empty promise.

Such statements have been uttered by presidential candidates before, including Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, as an intention of implementing the Jerusalem Embassy Act.

Passed by Congress in 1995, this act declared Jerusalem to be Israel’s capital and required the embassy to be moved there by 1999.

But the law included a loophole – a provision allowing presidents to waive its requirement for six months if they deemed it was in the national interest.

When the chips were down, Mr. Clinton, Mr. Bush and Mr. Obama signed such waivers to suspend the act, every six months, for the past 22 years, citing “national security interests”.

But the longstanding White House deferral policy might be about to change. Unlike his predecessors, Trump has continued to reiterate his promise loudly and proudly ever since.

In December, Trump’s senior adviser Kellyanne Conway confirmed that the move would be a “very big priority” for the Trump administration.

Last Thursday, on the eve of his inauguration, Donald Trump’s spokesman, Sean Spicer, speaking about the relocation of the embassy, told reporters to “Stay tuned. There’ll be a further announcement on that”.

On Sunday, just two days into his presidency, Sean Spicer revealed, “We are at the beginning stages of even discussing this subject.”

The fate of Jerusalem has been fervently contested for decades, with Palestinians viewing East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state while Israelis proclaim the entire city as their capital.

The 1967 annexation of East Jerusalem by Israel is considered illegal under international law. In 1947, the UN recommended that the city be declared a “corpus separatum”, a separate entity belonging to no country.

No foreign embassies are found in Jerusalem. American policy, like that of many other nations, has long been that the future of the Holy City can be determined only as part of a broader peace agreement and that putting the embassy there would prejudge the outcome.

If implemented, the Bill would be seen by many as the US legitimising Israel’s illegal occupation of East Jerusalem, as well as disregarding Palestinian claims to the city.

The prospect of the relocation has caused furore on both sides of the green line.

David Friedman, Trump’s new ambassador to Israel, extolled Trump’s pledge, stating that he was “looking forward” to working from the US embassy “in Israel’s eternal capital, Jerusalem.”

Haaretz reported that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been briefed on scenarios of violence should Trump go through with his promise, stating that “Trump could make an announcement on the embassy any moment after he enters the White House.”

Outgoing US Secretary of State, John Kerry, also made predictions of serious repercussions should the embassy be uprooted: “You’d have an explosion, an absolute explosion in the region, not just in the West Bank, and perhaps even in Israel itself, but throughout the region.”

Meanwhile, thousands of Palestinians took to the streets around the West Bank on Thursday to protest the alleged plans for the embassy.

Saeb Erekat, secretary general of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO), said that moving the embassy would mean “recognition of Israel’s annexation of Jerusalem, which means destroying the peace process and ending all chances of peace.”

Erekat was not alone in warning that the policy would only serve to further intensify gargantuan divides.

Palestinian ambassador to the UN, Riyad Mansour, responded to Trump’s pledge: “If people attack us by moving the embassy to Jerusalem, which is a violation of security council resolutions, it is a violation of resolution 181 of the UN general assembly that was drafted by the US… it means they are showing belligerency towards us. If they do that, nobody should blame us for unleashing all of the weapons that we have in the UN to defend ourselves, and we have a lot of weapons in the UN.”

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas sent a letter to Trump, urging him to abstain from moving the embassy to Jerusalem as such a move would have a “disastrous impact on the peace process, on the two-state solution and on the stability and security of the entire region”

Trump, even before his inauguration, has already caused unrest in the region and if he continues with his stated intention, will inflame the situation further.

With regard to the recent UN Security Council Resolution 2334, which condemns all measures aimed at altering the status of the occupied territories, Trump ostensibly made a public declaration on Twitter: “Things will be different after Jan. 20th.”

Whether Trump will follow in the footsteps of his predecessors and sign the waiver remains to be seen. Questioned about the embassy pledge on Thursday, Trump responded, “You know that I am not a person who breaks promises.”


 

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