Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas warned Saturday that peace could suffer if U.S. president-elect Donald Trump goes ahead with plans to move Washington’s embassy to Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Abbas made the comments as he inaugurated the Palestinian embassy to the Holy See following an audience with Pope Francis during which he discussed the Middle East situation.
Speaking through an Italian translator, Abbas said he had only heard of the proposal by Trump to move the embassy to Jerusalem, and couldn’t comment officially unless and until it happens.
But he added: “If this is the decision, to transfer the embassy to Jerusalem, it will not help peace and we hope it doesn’t happen.”
The Palestinians strongly oppose the move, saying it would kill any hopes for negotiating an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement and rile the region by undercutting Muslim and Christian claims to the holy city.
Trump hasn’t yet laid out a clear Mideast policy, but has signaled he will be more sympathetic to Israel’s hard-line right than previous administrations. He has also vowed to move the U.S. embassy.
Abbas has written to Trump warning of the risks of such a move and asked him to reconsider, while also flagging the concern to Arab and other world leaders.
The Vatican has long sought an internationally guaranteed status for Jerusalem that safeguards its sacred character.
Abbas warned in an interview released by the French daily Le Figaro on Friday that the Palestinians may consider “reversing recognition” of Israel if Trump moves the embassy.
“I wrote to president(-elect) Trump to ask him not to do it. Not only would this move deprive the United States of all legitimacy in playing a role in conflict resolution, it would also destroy the two-state solution,” Abbas was quoted as saying.
If the embassy transfer takes place, “there would be several options for us, and we would discuss them with Arab countries,” Abbas said.
“Reversing our recognition of the State of Israel is one of them. But we hope that it doesn’t reach that point, and that, on the contrary, we will be able to work with the next American administration,” he added.