Monday 19 February 2018

US asks Israel to restrain response to Jerusalem move - US document

Palestinians burn posters depicting US President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a protest against the US intention to move its embassy to Jerusalem and to recognize the city of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. Photo: Reuters
Palestinians burn posters depicting US President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a protest against the US intention to move its embassy to Jerusalem and to recognize the city of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. Photo: Reuters
US President Donald Trump, flanked by ‪Vice President Mike Pence‬, delivers remarks recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel at the White House in Washington. Photo: Reuters
Palestinians react during a protest against US President Donald Trump's decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital, in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip
After signing, US President Donald Trump holds up the proclamation that the United States recognises Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and will move its embassy there, during an address from the White House in Washington. Photo: Reuters
A man walks by as the Israeli national flag and an American one are projected on a part of the walls surrounding Jerusalem's Old City. Photo: Reuters
Palestinians watch a televised broadcast of US President Donald Trump delivering an address where he is expected to announce that the United States recognises Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, in Jerusalem's Old City. Photo: Reuters
Demonstrators hold banners and a portrait of Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan, during a protest against the US intention to move its embassy to Jerusalem and to recognise the city of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, near the US Embassy in Ankara, Turkey. Photo: Reuters
An Israeli national flag and an American one are projected on a part of the walls surrounding Jerusalem's Old City. Photo: Reuters
Palestinians play cards during a televised broadcast of US President Donald Trump delivering an address, in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip. Photo: Reuters
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the Jerusalem Post Diplomatic Conference in Jerusalem December 6. Photo: Reuters

Arshad Mohammed

The United States is asking Israel to temper its response to the US recognition of Jerusalem as its capital because Washington expects a backlash and is weighing the potential threat to US facilities and people, according to a State Department document seen by Reuters on Wednesday.

"While I recognise that you will publicly welcome this news, I ask that you restrain your official response," the document dated Dec. 6 said in talking points for diplomats at the US Embassy in Tel Aviv to convey to Israeli officials.

"We expect there to be resistance to this news in the Middle East and around the world. We are still judging the impact this decision will have on US facilities and personnel overseas," the document said.

A second State Department document seen by Reuters, which was also dated Dec. 6, said the agency had formed an internal task force "to track worldwide developments" following the US decision on Jerusalem.

A US official who spoke on condition of anonymity said it was standard to set up a task force "any time there is a concern about the safety and security of US government personnel or US citizens."

The State Department had no immediate comment on either document.

US President Donald Trump, flanked by ‪Vice President Mike Pence‬, delivers remarks recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel at the White House in Washington. Photo: Reuters
US President Donald Trump, flanked by ‪Vice President Mike Pence‬, delivers remarks recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel at the White House in Washington. Photo: Reuters

Trump reversed decades of US policy by recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, imperiling Middle East peace efforts and upsetting US friends and adversaries alike.

The first document also laid out talking points for officials at the US Consulate General in Jerusalem, the US Embassies in London, Paris, Berlin and Rome and the US mission to the European Union in Brussels.

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In its message for the European capitals, the document asked European officials to argue that Trump's decision did not prejudge so-called "final status" issues that Israel and the Palestinians need to hammer out in any peace agreement.

"You are in a key position to influence international reaction to this announcement and we are asking you to amplify the reality that Jerusalem is still a final status issue between Israelis and Palestinians and that the parties must resolve the dimensions of Israel's sovereignty in Jerusalem during their negotiations," it said.

"You know that this is a unique Administration. It makes bold moves. But it is bold moves that are going to be needed if peace efforts are finally going to be successful," it said.

The status of Jerusalem, home to sites holy to the Muslim, Jewish and Christian religions, is one of the biggest obstacles to reaching an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal.

Israel considers Jerusalem its eternal and indivisible capital and wants all embassies based there. Palestinians want the capital of an independent state of their own to be in the city's eastern sector, which Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war and annexed in a move never recognised internationally.

Reuters

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