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Photo: The Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem, below the Temple Mount, Judaism’s holiest site. Also visible on the mount is part of the mosque known as the Dome of the Rock. (Photo: CNSNews.com)
By Patrick Goodenough, CNSNews, December 6, 2017
U.S. diplomatic missions in Israel and Jordan are barring employees and families from personal visits to Jerusalem’s Old City and the West Bank and cautioning citizens to take care, citing “widespread calls for demonstrations” starting Wednesday in response to President Trump’s planned policy announcement on Jerusalem.
The Consulate-General in Jerusalem and embassies in Tel Aviv and Amman also said official visits to those areas will be allowed only for “essential travel and with additional security measures.”
White House officials briefing on background on Tuesday evening said Trump on Wednesday will recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and begin the process of moving the embassy to the city.
Hamas is calling for a “day of rage” on Friday in response, with implicit calls for violence.
In a statement the U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organization stressed “the need to go to all possible points of contact with the occupation [Israel] after Friday prayers.”
It said young people should “respond to the American decision that targets our holy city by all means available,” adding that “Jerusalem is a red line.”
In another intervention, the Cairo-based Al-Azhar – an institution viewed as the highest seat of learning in Sunni Islam – said a change in U.S. policy on Jerusalem would constitute “a threat to world peace.”
A number of world leaders have called on Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson not to take unilateral steps regarding Jerusalem.
Jordan’s King Abdullah and Saudi King Salman warned Trump in phone conversations Tuesday that moving the embassy to Jerusalem would have serious implications.
European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini told Tillerson in Brussels Tuesday that any action which could undermine efforts towards an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal “must absolutely be avoided.”
In his replying public comments, Tillerson made reference to their discussions about North Korea, the U.S.-E.U. alliance, the campaign against ISIS, the Iran nuclear deal, Iran’s behavior in the region, Syria peace efforts, and NATO – but was silent on the Israeli-Palestinian issue.
Asked about the consular precautions, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters, “we know what’s out there in the public sphere, that there are some concerns about a decision that will be made by the White House.”
“We will always keep the safety and security of Americans paramount,” she said. “We want to be able to keep the American public up to speed, share with them our concerns about any announcements that could be made.”
Asked whether Tillerson was “on board” with the president’s decision, Nauert said the secretary has “made his positions clear to the White House” and that it was “ultimately the president’s decision to make.”
U.S. legislation passed in 1995 required the president to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem by May 31, 1999, failing which the State Department would lose half of the funds appropriated for its acquisition and maintenance of buildings abroad.
The four president since then repeatedly have invoked an inbuilt six-month waiver to delay complying.