President Donald Trump is telephoning several Middle East leaders ahead of an expected announcement as early as Wednesday that the United States will recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
A White House statement said Trump was speaking to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and Jordan’s King Abdullah in the morning, and would be calling other regional leaders later in the day.
There was no immediate word from the White House on the substance of the conversations, but the Palestinian press reported that Trump had confirmed to Abbas that the recognition of Jerusalem would be forthcoming.
Arab and Muslim states have warned that such a declaration could destroy U.S. efforts to reach an Arab-Israeli peace agreement. Senior Palestinian leader Nabil Shaath said Trump would no longer be seen as a credible mediator.
“The Palestinian Authority does not condone violence, but it may not be able to control the street and prevent a third Palestinian uprising,” Shaath said, speaking in Arabic.
Jerusalem is home to the Mosque of Al Aqsa, the third holiest place in Islam. For Jews, it is the Temple Mount, the holiest site of all.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has threatened to cut ties with Israel, if Trump recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
"Mr. Trump , Jerusalem is a red line for Muslims," Erdogan said adding, Turkey "could go as far as cutting diplomatic ties with Israel over the issue.”
Under a law signed by President Bill Clinton in 1995, the embassy must be relocated to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv unless the president signs a waiver every six months stating that the matter is to be decided between the Israelis and Palestinians. Every president since Clinton has signed the waiver, including Trump, who did so when it came due last June.
During last year’s presidential campaign, Trump promised he would move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a move favored by many American Jews and Christian evangelicals.
Robert Berger contributed to this report from Jerusalem, Dorian Jones - from Istanbul.