Trump 'seriously' contemplating embassy move ahead of Netanyahu meeting

Trump 'seriously' contemplating embassy move ahead of Netanyahu meeting
Israel prepares for possible West Bank unrest ahead of first meeting between US president and Israeli prime minister.
2 min read
10 February, 2017
Israeli right-wingers have been emboldened by Donald Trump's presidency [AFP]
US President Donald Trump has said he is "thinking seriously" about his controversial pledge to move his country's embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to occupied Jerusalem.

His remarks, which were published by Israeli newsaper Israel Hayom on Friday, come just days ahead of the Republican president's meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

The inflammatory pledge has enraged many across the world who view Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine.

Such a move, which would mark a break with decades of US policy, would be symbolic of American acceptance of Israel's claim to the city, which it occupied after the Six Day War of 1967. Many worry that this would also unleash violence that would derail any remaining hopes of peace between the two sides.

Since taking office, however, Trump's administration has approached the matter with a greater deal of caution that on the campaign trail.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters in January that the US was only "at the very beginning stages of even discussing this subject," much to the disappointment of enthusiatic advocates of the plan.

In his recent interview, Trump also took the opportunity to voice some scepticism over Israeli settlement expansion, saying that the plans are not "good for peace" - the president's most pointed remarks to date about settlements.

Israel last week voted to legalise around 4,000 homes buit on privately owned Palestinian land.

Palestinian authorities have warned that Trump's proposed embassy move will derail any current efforts at peace, with Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas teling the US president in a letter that it could "open the gates of hell".

Another senior Fatah official described the proposal as being "as good as as declaration of war".

According to Israeli media outlets, the country's cabinet has met with security services in order to prepare for "scenarios of worsening violence" if the embassy is moved to the holy city.

Military officials have also warned that violence could spread to the West Bank, where months of heightened hostility between Palestinians and Israeli forces has seen a spate of killings and attacks over the last year.