DID TRUMP BLINK? IT LOOKS LIKE IT.
Channel 2 quotes Israeli diplomats on possible compromise, but CNN says incoming administration telling allies embassy will move
The US Consulate in Jerusalem’s Talpiot neighborhood (Raphael Ahren/Times of Israel)
Possible compromise over moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem could see Donald Trump’s ambassador working from an existing US consulate in the capital while the embassy itself remains in Tel Aviv, Israeli television reported on Tuesday.
Quoting unnamed Israeli Foreign Ministry officials, Channel 2 news said intended ambassador David Friedman, who has said he looks forward to working from the US embassy in Jerusalem, might instead merely work from the city with a small staff, while the Tel Aviv embassy remains intact and most of its operations and staff stay there.
The report noted that building contractors in neighborhoods near the existing consulate in Talpiot have received calls recently from would-be buyers seeking luxury homes for Americans.
In marked contrast to the talk of a compromise idea, however, CNN reported that Trump was pushing ahead with plans for the embassy move and telling allies that it will go ahead.
There is speculation the announcement of the move could be made on May 24, when Israel celebrates Jerusalem Day, marking the unification of the city in 1967, CNN reported on Tuesday. That date would be a few days before a waiver signed by President Barack Obama on moving the embassy expires.
European and Arab diplomats have warned Trump against the move, saying it could ignite the region. “It’s very dangerous,” a European diplomat told CNN.
Palestinian leaders on Tuesday called for prayers at mosques across the Middle East this week to protest plans by Trump to move the embassy.
Over the weekend, outgoing Secretary of State John Kerry warned that moving the embassy — and this effectively recognizing Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem — would cause “an explosion” in the region and have a detrimental effect on Israel’s relationships with Jordan and Egypt.
In an interview with CBS News, Kerry said the move would cause “an explosion, an absolute explosion in the region, not just in the West Bank, and perhaps even in Israel itself, but throughout the region.”
It would also “have profound impact on the readiness of Jordan and Egypt to be able to be supportive and engaged with Israel as they are today,” he warned.
Trump and his team have spoken repeatedly of his intention to relocate the embassy to Israel’s capital, leading to wall-to-wall condemnations from Palestinian leaders.
On Friday the issue was the chief subject of religious sermons throughout the West Bank, with Palestinian Authority leadership instructing mosques it controls to focus on the matter, Israel Radio reported.
Official Palestinian television also broadcast excerpts from several such sermons, in which clerics urged their followers to wake up to the danger. One warned relocating the embassy would be an attack on the Muslim faith and against history. Another said it was an assault on Islam’s holy place and on Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Some Israeli reports have quoted relatives of the terrorist who rammed his truck into Israeli soldiers in East Talpiot on Sunday, killing four of them, had been impacted by one such sermon at his local mosque.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Friday warned Trump not to move the embassy. He invited Trump to visit the Palestinian territories, but also said: “We call on you not to implement your statement… because we consider it as an aggressive statement, when you say you want to move the embassy to Jerusalem.”
Those dire warnings went without response from the president elect and his designated secretary of state. However, they appear to have had some effect. DEBKAfile’s exclusive sources report that the transition team is examining a number of proposals, one of which is to make a start on clearing the ground at the future site of the US embassy in Jerusalem and then wait.
The US government purchased the site some years ago for this purpose.The plot, known as the Allenby Camp, which served as a British military compound after 1917, is large and stands empty in the southern Jerusalem neighborhood of Talpiot, adjacent to the Palestinian district of Jabal Muqabar and the mixed neighborhood of Abu Tor.
Another idea is to conduct a cornerstone-laying ceremony at the site – and then suspend construction. The Palestinians would have to reciprocate by calling off their international campaign for vilifying and delegitimizing the State of Israel at the UN as well as in world capitals. Construction of the US embassy would then remain on hold. But if the Palestinians continued their anti-Israel campaign, construction of the Jerusalem embassy would go forward.
Our sources report that the embassy transfer is just one item on a broad program President-elect Trump is putting together on the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, including its territorial aspects.