Trump tells Palestinian Authority's president that he WILL move America's embassy in Israel to Jerusalem – but no one knows when
- U.S. embassies around the world are on heightened alert as President Trump mulls whether to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital
- But Trump reportedly told Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday that he also plans to move America's embassy there
- That news was reported by the PA's official news outlet after Trump and Abbas spoke on the phone
- The White House isn't confirming it and the Palestinian news report didn't include a timeline for Trump's action
- The possibility that Trump may recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital and move the embassy could spark violence all over the Middle East
- Jerusalem is home to the place known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif – hotly contested holy sites
- Turkey's president is threatening to try to block Trump and calls Jerusalem 'a red line' for Muslims ?
Donald Trump told Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday that he intends to move America's embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
The Palestinian Authority made the announcement via the state-run WAFA news service shortly after the two leaders spoke.
The White House told reporters in the morning that Trump had scheduled calls with Abbas, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Jordan's King Abdullah II.?
'Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas received a phone call from U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday, informing him of his intention to transfer the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem,' WAFA reported, according to an English translation.?
President Donald Trump and Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas spoke on Tuesday, and Abbas' state-run media outlet says Trump gave him a heads-up that he intended to move America's embassy to Jerusalem
The White House had said it would not take any immediate action on whether to move the US embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv (shown above), something that Trump had promised to do during his presidential campaign
WAFA, the Palestinian Authority's state-run press organ, broke the news Tuesday before the White House could put its own spin on the decision
'The president, I would say, is pretty solid in his thinking at this point,' White House press secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters Tuesday afternoon
'Presidential Spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina said that President Abbas warned of the dangers of such a decision on the peace process, security and stability in the region and the world.'
Trump will deliver a speech on Wednesday in which he is expected to officially recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital city.
'The president, I would say, is pretty solid in his thinking at this point,' White House press secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters Tuesday afternoon, describing the decision-making as 'a very thoughtful interagency process.'
Separately, Rudeina said in a statement that 'the Palestinian stance is determined and steadfast – there will not be a Palestinian state without East Jerusalem as its capital according to decisions by the international community.'
'Abu Mazen [Abbas] is now holding an emergency meeting in his bureau following the phone conversation with Trump.'
Other reactions in the Arab world were more pointed.
Turkey's president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, threatened to convene a meeting of member nations of the Organisation for Islamic Cooperation to oppose en masse any move recognizing Jerusalem as distinctly Israeli.
'Jerusalem, Mr. Trump, is a red line for Muslims,' Ergodan told his nation's parliament.
'We will continue our fight against this with determination until the very end,' he added, 'and this could go all the way to our cutting diplomatic ties with Israel.'
Foreign ministers from Egypt and Jordan have also spoken with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in the past 36 hours, warning him that loudly siding with Israel in the age-old squabble over Jerusalem's status could stir the region's already boiling pot.?
Turkey's president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, threatened on Tuesday to organize Arab nations to block Trump, and called Jerusalem 'a red line' for Muslims
WHY IS JERUSALEM CONTESTED?
Jerusalem has been a contested site for centuries, and today three major world religions – Judaism, Islam and Christianity – lay claim to various holy sites and monuments there.?
Crucially, Israel calls it its capital, but the Palestinians say the east of the city is their capital.
The establishment in 1948 of the state of Israel included its declaration of Jerusalem as the capital.
But the war which followed left the city split between west and east along religious lines.
For the two-thirds of Jerusalem residents who are Jews, they live in the world's holiest city, the capital of the original Israelite Kingdom of Judah and the former location of ancient Jewish temples. The Western Wall, a site where Jews make pilgrimages to pray, is nearby.
Israeli soldiers after capturing East Jerusalem from Jordan in 1967. Israel later annexed the area and declared it part of its capital - something the international community refuses to recognize
Muslims, who comprise nearly all the rest, consider the walled Old City in Jerusalem sacred too. What Jews call the Temple Mount is known in Islam as Haram al-Sharif (Noble Sanctuary). It contains the al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock.
Palestinians controlled the site until Israelis captured it from Jordan during the Six-Day War in 1967.?
Christians are only about 2 per cent of Jerusalem's population, but they see the city as the site of Jesus Christ's cruxificion and resurrection from the dead.
Israelis consider Jerusalem – all of it – to be their 'eternal capital.'
Palestinians want their own sovereign nation with East Jerusalem as its capital, and have made that a condition of pursuing a 'two-state solution' to the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Israel's Knesset passed a law in 1980 officially annexing East Jerusalem, but no other nation has ever recognized it as legal.
Most countries avoid the issue by having embassies in Tel Aviv which is Israel's largest city and its economic capital. ?
Trump ignored a semi-annual deadline last Friday imposed by a 1995 law written to force then-president Bill Clinton to relocate the embassy to Jerusalem.
Congress inserted a yawping loophole, writing that the White House can waive the requirement by declaring every six months that keeping it in Tel Aviv is in America's 'national security interests.'
Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama and now Donald Trump have all exercised that option.
But as the deadline loomed last week, Vice President Mike Pence said in a speech that Trump 'is actively considering when and how to move the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.'
Trump's coming acknowledgement of Jerusalem as Israel's capital is a move seen by some as a consolation prize from a president who's not yet ready to make the larger commitment.
Trump's move will make life more difficult for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, another man on his call list Tuesday morning
American embassies around the world are on heightened alert as the White House has hinted Trump is ready to formally recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital – but he indicated Monday night at the White House that he couldn't hear shouted questions about it
But the WAFA report raises the possibility that Trump will ride his china-shop bull persona into history instead – and causing a new kind of turmoil in the Middle East.
It's unclear from the report whether Trump told Abbas that he would move the embassy soon or in the more distant future.
The White House isn't saying either.
It has become commonplace for the Trump White House to hold back official accounts of high-stakes calls with world leaders, giving their governments the chance to publicly cast the discussions in whatever light they want.
Last month Turkey's foreign minister announced after one such call that Trump had promised Erdogan that the U.S. would stop arming Kurdish fighters in Syria.
The White House's 'readout,' a publicly released summary, made no specific mention of that.?
American embassies around the world have been on heightened alert this week over potential violence as Trump mulls how far to go – whether to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital and even move the U.S. embassy there.
The possibilities have stirred opposition from American diplomats and foreign officials.
Another regional leader Trump spoke to Tuesday morning is Jordan's King Abdullah II, pictured with his wife Queen Rania last week in Washington
Such a decision, which U.S. officials have said has not been finalized, would violate decades of American policy not to take a stance on the fate of Jerusalem – on the grounds that this was an issue Israelis and Palestinians should negotiate and decide.
Changing course could spark demonstrations or violence by Palestinians or by Muslims around the world, in part because of the sensitivity of the Jerusalem site known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif.
The site includes the Al Aqsa Mosque, the third-holiest site in Islam, and the golden Dome of the Rock.?
It was also the site of an ancient Jewish temple, the holiest place in Judaism.
Israel seized East Jerusalem, which includes the area, during a 1967 war.?
However, the Waqf, a Muslim religious body, manages the Islamic sites within the compound.
A senior U.S. official told Reuters last week that Trump was likely to make the announcement on Jerusalem being Israel's capital on Wednesday, though his adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner on Sunday said no final decision had been made.
Kushner is leading Trump's efforts to restart long-stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, efforts that so far have shown little progress.
If Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital, it could spark demonstrations or violence by Palestinians or by Muslims around the world, in part because of the sensitivity of the Jerusalem site known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif (above)
The White House said it would not take any action on Monday on whether to move the US embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, something that Trump had promised to do in his presidential campaign.
Trump is expected to sign the waiver, according to several US officials.?
One US official said Trump was likely to accompany the signing with an order for his aides to begin serious planning for an eventual embassy move, though it was unclear whether he would establish a strict timetable.
Two other US officials said on condition of anonymity that news of the plan to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital had kicked up resistance from the State Department's Near Eastern Affairs bureau (NEA), which deals with the region.
'Senior (officials) in NEA and a number of ambassadors from the region expressed their deep concern about doing this,' said one official, saying that the concerns focused on 'security.'
'The impending Jerusalem announcement has me very worried about the possibility of violent responses that could affect embassies,' a State Department official told Politico.?
'I hope I’m wrong.'?
A fourth U.S. official said America's consensus intelligence estimate on U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital was that it would risk triggering a backlash against Israel, and also potentially one against American interests in the Middle East.
The core issues in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute include borders, the future of Jewish settlements in the West Bank, the fate of Palestinian refugees and the status of Jerusalem.
The Palestinians seek to establish an independent state in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, territory captured in the 1967 Middle East war and the Gaza Strip, which is controlled by Islamist Hamas, with East Jerusalem as its capital.
There are fears that any change in the status quo on Jerusalem could spark another round of Palestinian violence from militant groups like Hamas (whose members are seen above in Gaza City on November 14)
U.S. allies voiced their misgivings about the United States unilaterally calling Jerusalem Israel's capital.?
'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,' Prince Khalid bin Salman, Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United States, said in a statement.
French President Emmanuel Macron 'expressed his concern over the possibility that the United States would unilaterally recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel' during a phone call with Trump on Monday, Macron's office said after the two leaders spoke by telephone.
And in an unusually detailed statement published by Jordan's official news agency Petra, Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi was quoted as having warned Secretary of State Rex Tillerson against the move in a call on Sunday.
Safadi said such a move would 'trigger anger across the Arab and Muslim world, fuel tension and jeopardize peace efforts,' Petra reported.
The Palestine Liberation Organization's chief representative in Washington, Husam Zomlot, said a formal US recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel would be the 'kiss of death' to the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
'Should such a step be taken it would have catastrophic consequences,' Zomlot told Reuters.
A fifth US official said concerns of Palestinian and other Arab leaders about endorsing Israel's claim to Jerusalem were being taken into account but no final decisions had been made.
Daniel Benjamin, a former US counterterrorism official now at Dartmouth College, had a simple message: 'This is playing with fire.'
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