Sunday, 28 May, 2017

Palestinians hope for settlement curb if peace talks resume

Laura Christensen | 19 May, 2017, 22:50

Israel has long pressed nations to move their embassies to Jerusalem; Palestinians, and much of the global community, view east Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state.

The new USA ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, departed from diplomatic protocol by visiting the Western Wall on Monday. Israel has built settlements on war-won lands, now home to 600,000 Israelis.

Asked what distinguishes Trump's plans from previous attempts, White House spokesman Sean Spicer said merely: "The man is different".

The rival claims to Jerusalem lie at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and no countries now have their embassies there, instead basing them in Israel's commercial capital Tel Aviv.

The Israeli prime minister released an excerpt of minutes from a February meeting at the White House with Mr Trump that his office said proved he called for the embassy to be moved.

According to the report, top U.S. officials close to the president warned that the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital could have broad regional risks, echoing recommendations from leaders in the region, including Jordan's King Abdullah who warned Trump that an embassy move would have a negative impact on the peace process.

The comments also come only one week before Trump is expected to make his first official visit to Israel, on his first overseas trip since becoming president.

"We are convinced that this statement is contrary to the policy of President Trump".

Israel annexed Jerusalem in 1967 and regards the entire city as its eternal capital.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Office denied the claim on Monday evening, issuing a statement that said: "The things published on Fox News are a lie".

On the campaign trail, Trump voiced solidly pro-Israel positions. In an apparent coincidence, Steven Tyler, lead singer of Aerosmith, was visiting at the same time and briefly spoke to Friedman.

The now-confirmed new ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, is due to take up his duties from Monday. "I wished him success, especially on his upcoming trip".

Palestinians argued moving the embassy would prejudge one of the most sensitive issues in the conflict, undermining America's status as an effective mediator. He said he had "hope" about prospects for peace with Trump in that role as he praised the President for his negotiating acumen.

Moving the embassy would be deeply controversial since Palestinians contest Israel's right to the city and want to establish the capital of a future independent state there - a demand Palestinian Authority (P.A.) chairman Mahmoud Abbas reiterated at his March 3 Oval Office meeting with Trump.

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