Palestinians seek weekend prayers to protest US Embassy move

AP News
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Posted: Jan 10, 2017 12:14 PM
Palestinians seek weekend prayers to protest US Embassy move

RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) — A senior Palestinian official called Tuesday for mosque and church prayers "from Pakistan to Tehran, from Lebanon to Oman" to protest the possible relocation of the U.S. Embassy in Israel to contested Jerusalem.

The appeal came amid growing concerns in the region that President-elect Donald Trump will quickly make good on a campaign promise to move the embassy from Israel's coastal city of Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Jordan, a key U.S. ally in the fight against Islamic militants and the custodian of Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem, said last week that moving the embassy is a "red line." Jordan also has close security ties with Israel.

Mohammed Ishtayeh, an adviser to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said Palestinian officials were told by "American circles and diplomatic friends" that Trump might reaffirm the relocation plan during his Jan. 20 inauguration.

A Trump adviser has said moving the embassy was a priority for the incoming president, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has welcomed the idea. His office had no immediate reaction to Ishtayeh's comments.

The Palestinians hope to make east Jerusalem the capital of a future state that would also include the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Israel captured all three territories in the 1967 war and annexed east Jerusalem later that year.

Israel considers all of Jerusalem to be its capital, but several Israeli leaders over the years have said they are open to a partition of the city as part of a peace deal with the Palestinians.

Netanyahu, the current Israeli prime minister, has said Jerusalem, home to key Jewish, Muslim and Christian holy sites, is not up for negotiation.

With Jerusalem's status unresolved, most countries, including the United States, have maintained embassies in Tel Aviv.

In recent days, Palestinian officials have warned that an embassy move would derail long-standing U.S.-led efforts to negotiate a two-state solution to the conflict. Such a solution has broad international backing, and the U.N. Security Council reaffirmed in December that east Jerusalem is part of the occupied territories.

In moving the embassy to Jerusalem, the Trump administration would effectively recognize the entire city as the capital of Israel and thus pre-empt the outcome of any future negotiations, Ishtayeh told reporters Tuesday.

"If it does so, frankly, we think this is the end of the two-state solution," he said. "I hope President Trump does not underestimate the importance of Jerusalem for the Palestinians, Muslims and Christians."

In response to an embassy move, the Palestinians might seriously consider canceling a mutual recognition deal that was signed between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization, Ishtayeh warned. The 1993 Oslo accords paved the way for interim deals, including Palestinian self-rule in parts of the occupied lands.

For now, the Palestinians and some of their allies are trying to exert greater public and diplomatic pressure.

Abbas wrote to Trump and world leaders Monday, warning of the dangers of an embassy move.

Ishtayeh said the Palestinian leadership is calling for protests after Friday prayers across the Muslim world. Churches in the region are being asked to ring their bells in protest on Sunday, he said.