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Christian leaders urge Trump to declare Jerusalem as Israel's capital

20 May 2017, 01:24 | Taylor George

President Trump has decided not to immediately move the US Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, a senior White House official said, breaking a campaign promise but avoiding a provocation that could drive Palestinians away from peace talks.

Trump is slated to arrive in Israel Monday following a weekend in Saudi Arabia.

Trump's security operation in Israel has been named "Operation Blue Shield", and yesterday's joint exercise focused on the various sites Trump will visit, aimed at reducing any potential risks to the high-level official and his entourage.

The debate is likely to continue until June 1, when the latest presidential waiver freezing the embassy move is to expire.

The argument against moving the embassy, uniquely denying Israel the right to declare its own capital, focuses on the problem of prejudging the final status of Jerusalem, one of the major disputes blocking an Israeli-Palestinian agreement. "On the contrary, it would advance it by correcting an historical injustice and by shattering the Palestinian fantasy that Jerusalem is not the capital of Israel". "The President will also visit the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Western Wall".

Separately, the Post reported Thursday that a decision on the embassy could take place after Trump's visit.

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Among the main bones of contention are Netanyahu insisting that the Palestinians recognise Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people and the Palestinians calling for a halt to Israeli settlement building in the West Bank.

"There's no planned announcement for the embassy on the trip", the White House official said.

"We were not elected to keep chairs warm", Shaked was quoted as saying, "but rather to implement clear policy, ensure that no Palestinian state is established, and ensure that the [U.S.] embassy is moved [to Jerusalem]".

Yet in an interview with Israel Hayom, a pro-Netanyahu paper, Trump said his plans "could still change" and suggested he might ask Netanyahu to join him, a last-minute move that would please Netanyahu but anger the Palestinians.

Donald Trump began his maiden worldwide trip as USA president Friday, leaving the White House awash in a slew of controversies that has some politicians invoking comparisons to the Watergate scandal that brought down the presidency of Richard Nixon.

On Tuesday, Trump is scheduled to visit Abbas for an hour in Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus, which lies a few kilometers south of Jerusalem in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.



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