US President Donald Trump is “actively” exploring “when and how” to relocate the country’s embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, according to US Vice President Mike Pence.
He made the remarks on November 28 while attending a United Nations event marking the 70th anniversary of a vote for the partition of Palestine, which aided Israel in establishing a Jewish state.
As reported by Al Jazeera, Trump repeatedly promised to move the embassy and recognise Jerusalem as the Israeli capital. The US embassy would be the first in Jerusalem.
Trump signed a six-month waiver (which expires December1) to delay the relocation, which would have complicated US efforts to resume the long-stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
The White House said at the time that the question is “not if that move happens, but only when”.
The move would also overturn decades of international consensus on Jerusalem, a highly-contested city, half of which was occupied and annexed by Israel following the 1967 War.
“If the relocation happens, it would be the first of its kind and would reaffirm to Israel that Jerusalem is ‘one and unified’,” Zakaria Odeh, director of the Civic Coalition for Palestinian Rights in Jerusalem, told Al Jazeera.
“It is a very dangerous step,” he said. “It would nullify any plans for future negotiations [on the conflict].”
Israel claims all of Jerusalem as its “united” capital, and its annexation of East Jerusalem effectively put the entire city under de-facto Israeli control. The Palestinians, however, see East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.
The international community, including the US, does not recognise Israel’s jurisdiction and ownership of the city.
“If the US relocates the embassy to Jerusalem, they will determine the city’s fate by recognising it as the capital of the occupying state, before even embarking on the peace negotiations it’s trying to achieve,” Khalil Shaheen, a Ramallah-based analyst, Shaheen told Al Jazeera.
According to Amani Khalifa, a Jerusalem-based activist, the relocation might be a crucial political move for the diplomats of the Palestinian Authority’s (PA), but not for ordinary Palestinians in Jerusalem.
“To regular people, it doesn’t really matter if the embassy stays in Tel Aviv or is relocated to Jerusalem,” she told Al Jazeera.
“But this move would make it clear to the rest of the world that there is no real sovereignty, and that the PA has no say over anything that happens in Jerusalem,” added Khalifa.