US spat erupts ahead of Trump visit to region

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson
Author

17 May, 2017

"These are not auspicious circumstances, but the new president of the USA - at least at this moment in time - looks determined to push forward", said Oded Eran, a former Israeli ambassador to Jordan and fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University.

"The president is being very careful to understand how such a decision would impact the peace process", Tillerson said in an interview broadcast Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press".

A Fox News reporter cited sources saying Netanyahu had asked Trump not to move the embassy now, leading the prime minister to issue an angry rebuttal. "It would advance it by amending a historic wrong and by shattering the Palestinian fantasy that Jerusalem isn't the capital of Israel". So far, the global community does not recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and not a single foreign country has based their embassies in Jerusalem.

Moving the embassy to Jerusalem would not only keep an unequivocal campaign promise but would also be in line with USA law, which three successive administrations have chosen not to observe over the past 18 years, by passing six-monthly national security waivers.

Palestinians say moving the embassy would be a de facto recognition of Israel's control of all Jerusalem. He has yet to make any concrete moves toward carrying out that promise.

An official in Netanyahu's office said the US comment was "received with astonishment" and that Israel had asked the White House for an explanation.

At this stage, he will work out of the US Embassy in Tel Aviv and will live in the ambassador's residence in Herzliya. Though Tillerson said he'd seen the intelligence implicating Russian Federation and believed there was no question Russian Federation meddled, he said it was just one of a "broad range of important issues that have to be addressed in the U.S. -Russia relationship".

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He showed little concern about Israeli settlement construction on occupied lands claimed by the Palestinians, expressed support for recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital and vowed to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

"The transfer of the USA embassy to Jerusalem does not only not harm the peace process, but the opposite".

While the Israelis seemed dismayed by the new development, the Palestinians said it is a step in the right decision, one that has the potential to increase the chance of having peace negations resume between Palestinians and Israelis.

In making those comments, Tillerson seems to be ignoring whether moving the embassy would be in the best interests of the United States. While the majority of ministers in the Israeli government are opposed to the very idea of a Palestinian state, the Palestinian rift between Abbas in the West Bank and Hamas in the Gaza Strip is as deep as ever.

He will try to relaunch the peace process although the prospects for progress are unclear as both sides are entrenched in long-held positions.

On Tuesday, Abbas told a press conference in Ramallah that he would be ready to meet with Netanyahu under President Trump's auspices. Following that line, Trump wants to signal to the American Jewish community his resolute commitment to Israel's security. In the other, billionaire mega-donor Sheldon Adelson, who contributed $5 million to President Trump's inauguration, in addition to $80 million to various GOP candidates in 2016 alone.

"Mr President, I affirm to you that we are raising our youth, our children, our grandchildren on a culture of peace", Abbas said.


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