Abbas Adviser: Palestinians Reassured Jerusalem Embassy Move Not High on Trump's Agenda

New U.S. administration wishes to focus on restarting Israeli-Palestinian peace process, Ahmed Majdalani tells Haaretz.

An ultra-Orthodox Jewish man walks by the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv, January 20, 2017.
AMIR COHEN/REUTERS

The Palestinian Authority in recent days received reassuring messages concerning U.S. President Doland Trump’s declarations about moving the American Embassy In Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Ramallah feared that the Trump administration would take instant action to relocate the embassy, and so took steps within the international and Arab arenas to try to stop it, including a personal appeal from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to Trump.

Dr. Ahmed Majdalani, adviser to Abu Mazen and member of the PLO Executive Committee, confirmed to Haaretz that the Palestinian leadership received reassurances that moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem is not at the top of Trump’s agenda and that the administration will soon focus on renewing the peace process.

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Majdalani, who also spoke with London-based Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, said that Trump received direct messages from Saudi Arabia and Jordan and other Arab countries, as well as from Russia and the European Union, telling him that such a move would have ruinous implications for America’s standing as a superpower and as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, and that it would be a “blatant violation of decisions from the international community concerning Jerusalem.”

Abbas also met on Tuesday with U.S. Consul David Blum at the Muqata in Ramallah. The Palestinian Wafa news agency reported that Abbas said he was ready to cooperate with the Trump administration for the sake of peace.

A Palestinian official said however that there were no grand declarations or pledges made by the American diplomat at the meeting. 

“The only official statement we have is the statement of the White House spokesperson that the issue of the embassy is still in the early stages of being studied," the official said. "The American representative heard the Palestinian side and its position on the peace process and the steps that will be taken to strengthen it, and those that could hurt the efforts to resume talks. Everything appears to be in the learning and exploratory stages, and conclusions cannot really be drawn yet.”

In its first daily press briefing on Monday, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said no decision has been made regarding relocating the embassy in Israel - one of Trump's campaign pledges. "We're at the very early stages of that decision making progress," he said.

Earlier on Monday, a report on MSNBC also said that moving the embassy was not a top priority for Trump at this time. Citing a source in the administration, Joe Scarborough, the host of the network's popular morning show, said that Trump's priority in the region was to work towards a Middle East peace deal, and moving the embassy to Jerusalem could harm the process.

"They are not going to move on Jerusalem for quite some time, they want a peace deal in the Middle East, that is their top priority and they have been told under no uncertain terms, that the recognition of Jerusalem sets that back for the next four years," Scarborough said. "So, that's not happening... while they measure out the possibility of actually getting peace in the Middle East."

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Trump spoke on the phone on Sunday night. Statements issued by the Prime Minister's Office and the White House did not mention the issue of relocating the embassy and is it not clear whether the two leaders discussed the subject. During the call, Trump told Netanyahu that peace between Israel and the Palestinians could only be reached through direct negotiations.

Abbas met on Sunday with Jordan's King Abdullah II in Amman about the possibility of relocating the embassy. After the meeting Abbas said that the two leaders agreed on a list of steps they would take if such a decision would be implemented.