President Trump reportedly told regional leaders on Tuesday that he intends to finally make good on campaign promises to relocate the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a controversial move presidents have historically avoided. The announcement went over poorly with a number of world leaders, who warned of the likely ramifications.
Numerous majority-Muslim nations specifically warned Trump that the decision would have “dangerous” consequences for the international community.
“Mr. Trump! Jerusalem is a red line for Muslims,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan warned in a televised speech on Tuesday. “We could go as far as cutting diplomatic ties with Israel over the issue,” Erdoğan continued.
Other regional leaders expressed similar sentiments. King Abdullah of Jordan warned Trump, saying the move would have “dangerous repercussions on the stability and security of the region.” (Jordan is the custodian of Muslim sites in Jerusalem.) Arab League head Ahmed Aboul Ghei warned that the decision “would have repercussions”, a caution echoed by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.
Saudi ambassador to the United States Prince Khalid bin Salman also expressed displeasure with the move on Monday.
“The kingdom’s policy — has been — and remains in support of the Palestinian people, and this has been communicated to the US administration,” the prince said in a statement.
“The recognition will have very serious implications and will be provocative to all Muslims’ feelings,” Saudi state news agency SPA added this week. “The United States administration should take into account the negative implications of such a move and the Kingdom’s hope not to make such a decision as this will affect the US ability to continue its attempt of reaching a just solution for the Palestinian cause.”
Trump has called peace between Israelis and Palestinians the “ultimate deal” and appointed his son-in-law, White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, to mediate the process. But the president has shown little interest in actually appeasing the demands of Palestinians, something his repeated threats to move the U.S. embassy have driven home.
East Jerusalem is often floated as the capital of a future Palestinian state, but the area has been under Israeli occupation since 1967. No official embassies are maintained in Jerusalem, part of international precedent. But hardline Israeli conservatives — including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a Trump ally — maintain that Jerusalem is Israeli territory.
Under the 1995 Jerusalem Act, the embassy must be relocated to to the city or risk the loss of State Department funding unless the president waives the move in the name of national security interests. Every president has opted to postpone the move since then, including Trump. But on Monday, Trump allowed the deadline’s six month renewal period to lapse.
Trump’s decision may go over well with the Israeli government but Palestinian leaders have already rejected the proposal. In a call with Trump on Tuesday, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas warned his counterpart over the move and indicated he would be reaching out to other world leaders to stop the United States.
“So Mr. Trump came up with the slogan of the ‘deal of the century,’ or ‘the mother of all transactions’, as Saddam Hussein would say. But the mother of all the deals dies here on the rocks in Jerusalem if he says tomorrow that he recognizes a united Jerusalem as the capital of Israel,” senior Palestinian official Nabil Shaath said. “It removes any chance he will play a role in an agreement. There is no deal that begins with the destruction of the two-state solution.”
Outside of the region, other leaders have also expressed dismay. French President Emmanuel Macron criticized the decision on Monday, as did other European leaders. Twenty-five former Israeli ambassadors also penned a letter advising against the move.
In advance of Trump’s announcement on Tuesday night, the State Department issued a warning cautioning U.S. government employees and travelers to avoid both the occupied West Bank and the Old City in Jerusalem. According to various sources, many Palestinian protesters are preparing for three “days of rage” and protests in response to the Trump administration’s decision.