Palestinians see US reconsidering Israel embassy pledge, says PLO official

Senior Palestinian official: No official reassurances from US that it will not move the US embassy in Israel.

January 25, 2017 12:58
3 minute read.

A general view shows Jerusalem's old city from an Israeli Air Force plane during an aerial show as part of celebrations for Israel's Independence Day to mark the 66th anniversary of the creation of the state, May 6, 2014. (photo credit: REUTERS)

The United States has not formally told Palestinian leadership of any plans not to move the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a senior Palestinian official said on Wednesday.

The comment came in response to a report Wednesday morning in Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, a pan-Arab newspaper, that the White House had informed Palestinian leadership that US President Donald Trump no longer planned to move the US’s diplomatic headquarters in Israel “at this stage.”

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“We have not received reassurances in writing or orally from the US that it does not plan to move the embassy,” Wasel Abu Yousif, a PLO Executive Committee member, told The Jerusalem Post.

Abu Yousif clarified that the Palestinian leadership believes that Trump is actively reconsidering the possibility of relocating the embassy.
Palestinians protest against Trump's statement on moving embassy to Jerusalem

“We believe that Trump is reviewing his election promise to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem,” Abu Yousif stated.

“Both Trump not mentioning the embassy in his inauguration speech, as [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu had expected, and the White House press secretary’s statements over the past couple of days indicate that the American president is reconsidering his position on the embassy.”

Trump told an Israeli reporter on Thursday that he plans to follow through with his promise to move the embassy.

“Of course, I remember what I said about Jerusalem...

You know that I am not a person who breaks promises,” Trump had said in response to a question about moving the embassy.

Nonetheless, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said on Monday that “no decision” has been made yet regarding the relocation of the embassy.

“If it were already a decision, then we wouldn’t be going through a process,” Spicer said in his first press briefing.

Spicer also declined to commit the administration to moving the embassy by the end of Trump’s term, four years from now. “His team is going to continue to consult with stakeholders as we get there,” he said.

Abu Yousif added: “The international community, including Russia, the Vatican, Jordan and many other countries, has made clear that moving the embassy is unacceptable,” Abu Yousif stated.

“We believe that Trump is reacting to the international community’s positions, which make clear the grave consequences that moving the embassy would have for us and the world.”

Ammar Hijazi, a PA Foreign Ministry official, told the Post he also believes that Trump is distancing himself from his campaign promise.

“I think that Trump is backing away from his campaign rhetoric now that he has assumed the responsibilities of the presidency and is confronting its reality,” said Hijazi, who formerly served as a Palestinian diplomat at the United Nations. “We saw a similar scenario when Netanyahu said he opposed the two-state solution before his election and then backtracked the day after he won.”

Prior to the 2015 Israeli election, Netanyahu had told an Israeli news outlet that a Palestinian state would not happen on his watch. Two days after being reelected prime minister, however, Netanyahu backtracked on his statement, telling MSNBC, an American news network, that he supports the twostate solution.

Meanwhile, Israeli leaders have been encouraging the relocation of the embassy since Trump’s election in early November. Netanyahu told reporters in Azerbaijan in December that a move to Jerusalem would be “great.”

Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi said on Wednesday said he does not expect the embassy will be moved immediately.

“I assume this issue will be debated in the US for some time. We know the issue is always an internal disagreement between Congress, which demanded in legislation that the State Department move the embassy, and the various administrations that promised what they promised but then pulled back.”

He added, however, that he has “no doubt” the final decision will be different from preceding administrations. “It may be creative, maybe a piecemeal [move],” Hanegbi said.

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