The US Consulate, on Jerusalem’s Agron Street.
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
As less than one month separates President-elect Donald Trump from assuming the reins of the US presidency, senior Palestinian officials are growing increasingly concerned about the prospect of major changes in US policy regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“We are very concerned about the US moving its embassy,” Wasel Abu Yousif, a PLO Executive Committee member, told The Jerusalem Post. “Such a move would be very dangerous, as it would entrench the occupation and violate all international legitimacy and laws.”
The international community does not recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and holds that its final status should be determined in negotiations.
In the initial weeks following Trump’s election, the president-elect’s adviser sent mixed messages regarding the relocation of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
However, his nomination of David Friedman to be US ambassador to Israel has exacerbated Palestinian concerns that Trump will follow through with his campaign pledge to move the embassy.
Friedman, a bankruptcy lawyer from New York, has consistently stated his support for relocating the US embassy to Jerusalem and for West Bank settlement construction.
Hanna Amira, another PLO Executive Committee member, told the Post that moving the embassy would mark the official death of the peace process.
“Transferring the embassy to Jerusalem will destroy the peace process and quite possibly bring us back to point zero,” Amira said, adding that it would “negate the Oslo Accords and other signed agreements.”
During years of negotiations, the Israeli and Palestinian leaderships failed to reach a compromise on Jerusalem, which is considered one of the most complicated final status issues.
Both Abu Yousif and Amira said that the PLO has not discussed the possible responses it could take if the Trump administration moves the embassy.
Nonetheless, Amira said that the option of the PLO revoking its recognition of Israel “will be among the possible responses on the table.”
The PLO officially recognized the State of Israel in 1993 upon the signing of the Oslo Accords and theoretically would have to convene the Palestinian National Council, the PLO’s parliament, to officially revoke its recognition of Israel.
Ammar Hijazi, a PA Foreign Ministry spokesman, told the Post that the ministry does not want to make preemptive statements on the potential relocation of the embassy, but said, “If such a hostile move comes to fruition, we will go to all international bodies and courts to protest it.”
Hijazi continued that moving the embassy would not only negatively affect US-Palestinian relations, but also US relations with the Arab and Islamic world.
Moreover, Abu Yousif remarked that moving the embassy “could lead to popular responses in the form of large protests and sit-ins. The people are not going to sit back and accept it.”
However, despite all their concerns, Abu Yousif, Amira and Hijazi said that they still have hope that “Trump, the president” will be different “Trump, the candidate and president-elect.”
Amira said that “the general feeling is worrisome, but we are waiting to see what Trump will do when he takes office. He could surprise us.”
Hijazi remarked that not all elections promises are kept once a candidate assumes office.
“In the Israeli elections, we saw Netanyahu say he was against the two-state solution and then the day after say he supports it. I don’t think we should count out the possibility that Trump will hold different positions when he takes office,” Hijazi stated.