US delegation explores moving embassy to Jerusalem

Group led by Republican congressman learns 'first hand' what controversial move decried by Palestinians would mean.

    File: A Palestinian protests against a promise by Trump to relocate the US embassy to Jerusalem [Mohamad Torokman/Reuters]
    File: A Palestinian protests against a promise by Trump to relocate the US embassy to Jerusalem [Mohamad Torokman/Reuters]

    A US delegation is in Israel exploring the possibility of relocating the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a move that Palestinian officials have strongly warned against.

    The delegation is led by Ron DeSantis, a Republican congressman, who is expected to meet Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, during the two-day trip which ends on Sunday.

    "The delegation is in Jerusalem to learn first hand what it will mean to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem," said Ruth Lieberman, a friend of DeSantis and a political adviser in Israel, according to the Jerusalem Post.

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    US President Donald Trump repeatedly promised the move during his election campaign and pledged to recognise Jerusalem as the Israeli capital.

    Palestinians criticised such promises as they hope to make East Jerusalem the capital of their future state, and have had the broad support of the international community for that aspiration.

    Those who have cautioned the US against such a move include Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Hamas and Nabil Shaath, former Palestinian foreign minister.

    Shaath in February told Al Jazeera: "Moving the embassy is the same as recognising Jerusalem as Israel's united capital. It's a war crime."

     

    The US has two consulate-general buildings in West Jerusalem.

    One mainly deals with diplomacy with Palestinians, while another building issues visas to people who live in Jerusalem and Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.

    "If the US were to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem ... it would be effectively recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel," said Al Jazeera's Bernard Smith, reporting from West Jerusalem.

    "It would also be taking away from the Palestinians the separate recognition that these consulate general offices give them."

    However, Trump's administration - like those of other US presidents such as Bill Clinton and George Bush who made similar promises - has "been rolling back on the idea[s] ... despite initial promises made during the campaign", he said.

    READ MORE: Trump's embassy move to Jerusalem 'self-destructive'

    According to some reports in Arab news media, Palestinian officials have been informed that the move is not likely to happen.

    "This is after advice from Jordan's King Abdullah II, who suggested it would cause violence on the Arab streets," said our correspondent.

    Other reports in Israeli news media suggest that David Friedman, the incoming US ambassador to Israel, might work out of an office in West Jerusalem as a compromise, while the embassy building would remain in Tel Aviv.

    Friedman is known to be a supporter of Israel's illegal Jewish-only settlements. 

    "That also, though, would be controversial," Al Jazeera's Smith said.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera News


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