The Palestinian president’s office and senior officials have warned of the potentially destructive effects of any move denying their claim to occupied East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.
The warnings come as US President Donald Trump is due to decide as early as the next week whether to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Reports emerged on Friday that Trump could again delay moving the embassy, but recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, a move that would rewrite long-standing US policy and ignite tensions in the Middle East.
Saeb Erekat, secretary-general of the PLO Executive Committee, says he has spoken to Arab leaders, who have relayed the same message “that Jerusalem is a red line, not just for Palestinians but for Arabs, Muslims and Christians everywhere”.
Speaking to Al Jazeera on Friday from Virginia, USA, Erekat said: “Everyone has informed the US administration that Jerusalem isn’t just a Palestinian question, it’s an Arab, Islamic and Christian question.
“The US administration understands the enormity of the subject.
“We are being told that promises were made during the election campaign that were postponed due to internal US problems facing Trump or anyone else … but these are not our concern.
“This is a very big issue. To touch Jerusalem, touch al-Aqsa Mosque, touch the Church of the Holy Sepulchre – this is playing with fire.
“There is no meaning for a Palestinian state without East Jerusalem as its capital.”
In a statement to the official Palestinian Wafa news agency, Nabil Abu Rudeina, spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said US recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and the transfer of the US embassy to Jerusalem would be equally dangerous for the fate of the peace process, and threaten to push the region into instability.
“The American recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel destroys the peace process,” he told AFP news agency.
The Palestinians see East Jerusalem as the capital of future Palestinian state, and fiercely oppose any changes that could be regarded as legitimising Israel’s occupation and annexation of its eastern sector.
Without referring to Trump or the US by name, Abu Rudeina said any just solution in the Middle East required recognition of East Jerusalem as the capital of an independent Palestinian state.
“East Jerusalem, with its holy places, is the beginning and the end of any solution and any project that saves the region from destruction,” he told Wafa.
Israel occupied East Jerusalem in the Six-Day War of 1967 and later annexed it in a move never recognised by the international community.
No countries currently have their embassies in Jerusalem, instead keeping them in Israel’s commercial capital Tel Aviv.
Reuters news agency reported citing a senior US official that Trump was likely to deliver a speech on Wednesday recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
It also quoted two administration officials as saying on Thursday that even as Trump was considering the declaration, he was expected to again delay his campaign promise to move the US embassy there.
Trump has said he wants to relaunch frozen peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians in search of the “ultimate deal”.
Any major shift in US policy would make that goal more difficult to achieve, Middle East analysts say.