Officials representing the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) warned on Thursday that they would cease to recognize Israel if the U.S. embassy is moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
In a CNN interview with Christiane Amanpour, PLO Chief Negotiator Saeb Erekat asserted that Palestinians will not accept the embassy’s move under any circumstances.
“We in the PLO, we will revoke our recognition of the state of Israel, because under no circumstances shall we recognize Israel and the United States saying East Jerusalem is annexed,” he told Amanpour. “The agreement signed with Israel will be dead because [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu decided to kill it.” He also asserted that such a move would kill any chances of a two-state solution.
You can watch the full exchange here:
Just in: PLO will revoke its recognition of Israel if President Trump moves the embassy to Jerusalem, that org's chief negotiator tells me. pic.twitter.com/9mTRWxIbkr
— Christiane Amanpour (@camanpour) January 26, 2017
Donald Trump has repeatedly said that his administration would look to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. U.S. policy, however, has long maintained that the status of Jerusalem should be determined in negotiations with the Palestinians, and the United Nations similarly does not view an undivided Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
Jews, Christians, and Muslims all consider Jerusalem a holy city, and Palestinians have demanded for years that East Jerusalem serve as the capital of a future Palestinian state. While Israel’s government has increasingly cracked down on Palestinian movements within the city, the status quo still remains, meaning that Palestinians have access to sacred monuments and sites like the Al-Aqsa mosque. Conducting several major diplomatic relations out of Tel Aviv is another component of this sensitive dynamic, and one that eases tension away from Jerusalem. If the U.S. embassy moves to Jerusalem, that balance will be disrupted.
Turmoil over Jerusalem has been brewing for awhile. Two weeks ago, then-Defense Secretary nominee James Mattis was asked to name the capital of Israel. In accordance with U.S. policy, Mattis named the city of Tel Aviv, but also said that he would defer to the secretary of state to make the decision.
The rest of Trump’s cabinet are deeply hawkish on Israel and Palestine. Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson has made it clear that he will be a staunch ally of Israel, regardless of its human rights violations. He criticized the Obama administration’s decision not to veto a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, and has emphasized that Israel is the United States’ most important ally in the Middle East. Meanwhile David M. Friedman, the ambassador to Israel, holds far-right views so extreme he refers to more progressive Jews as traitors and has made it clear that he will support Israel’s continued occupation of Palestine.
Trump also has support from Congress. Republican Senators Ted Cruz (TX), Marco Rubio (FL), and Dean Heller (NV) introduced a bill three weeks ago that would recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the U.S. embassy, cutting off half of the funding the embassy currently receives until it does so.
Recognition of Israel’s existence was a key component of the Oslo Accords, and one that has served as a critical sticking point in relations between the Israeli government and Palestinians. But Palestinians will not be alone if the United States goes through with its plans. The Jordanian government, a key U.S. ally, has made it clear that the embassy move would be a “red line,” severely impacting relations between the two nations.
Ultimately, this is about more than Israel and Palestine. The Trump administration’s brash approach to dealing with Middle Eastern policy is indicative of a wider foreign policy mentality. In addition to the unusual move of replacing all Obama administration envoys, Republicans are also proceeding with efforts to defund the U.N. Recent moves towards a “Muslim ban” are also damaging America’s image abroad and making the country less safe, and reigniting tensions in Israel will only exacerbate these problems.