Update: As reported earlier, the White House said on Sunday that it is only in the early stages of talks to fulfill President Donald Trump's pledge to move the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, an action that would likely spark anger in the Arab world. "We are at the very beginning stages of even discussing this subject," White House spokesman Sean Spicer said in a statement. Aides said no announcement of an embassy move was imminent.
Washington's embassy is in Tel Aviv, as are most foreign diplomatic posts. Israel calls Jerusalem its eternal capital, but Palestinians also lay claim to the city as part of an eventual Palestinian state. Both sides cite biblical, historical and political claims. The U.S. Congress passed a law in 1995 describing Jerusalem as capital of Israel and saying it should not be divided, but successive Republican and Democratic presidents have used their foreign policy powers to maintain the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv and to back negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians on the status of Jerusalem.
As Reuters notes, any decision to break with the status quo is likely to prompt protests from U.S. allies in the Middle East such as Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt. Washington relies on those countries for help in fighting the Islamic State militant group, which the new U.S. president has said is a priority.
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In one of the first international phone conversations by the new US president since his inauguration, Israel PM Netanyahu is set to call Trump on Sunday afternoon: the civil war in Syria, the Palestinians and the nuclear agreement with Iran will be on the agenda Netanyahu told his weekly Cabinet meeting.
PM Netanyahu: This evening there will be a telephone conversation between President Trump and myself.— PM of Israel (@IsraeliPM) January 22, 2017
The Prime Minister said that a top concern for Israel was the nuclear threat still posed by Iran under the terms of the landmark 2015 nuclear agreement. "The supreme goal of the state of Israel continues to be stopping the Iranian threat and stopping the threat from the bad nuclear deal signed with Iran," he said
There are many issues between us including the Israeli-Palestinian issue, the situation in Syria and the Iranian threat.— PM of Israel (@IsraeliPM) January 22, 2017
Stopping the Iranian threat, and the threat reflected in the bad nuclear agreement with Iran, continues to be a supreme goal of Israel— PM of Israel (@IsraeliPM) January 22, 2017
The Prime Minister said that a top concern for Israel was the nuclear threat still posed by Iran under the terms of the landmark 2015 nuclear agreement. "The supreme goal of the state of Israel continues to be stopping the Iranian threat and stopping the threat from the bad nuclear deal signed with Iran," he said.
Netanyahu has been a fierce opponent of the nuclear pact, called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, negotiated between Iran and the P5+1 group of world powers -- the United States, the UK, France, China and Russia plus Germany. Under the deal, Iran must reduce its uranium stockpile by roughly 98%, phase out its centrifuges over the next 15 years, limit research activities, allow heightened inspections and ship spent fuel outside of the country.
In return, many of the international sanctions imposed on Iran were lifted. Trump has repeatedly denounced the nuclear deal calling it "incompetently negotiated" and pledged to renegotiate its terms.
Sensing that Trump could indeed end the Nuclear deal to appease Netanyahu, on Saturday the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, Ali Akbar Salehi, told CBC in that “we can very easily snap back and go back not only to where we were, but a much higher position technologically speaking." He continued the threat, added that “I don’t want to see that day. I don’t want to make a decision in that course, but we are prepared”: Salehi
Iran has never intended to manufacture missiles that would go as far as the U.S., Salehi says in reaction to post on White House website saying new U.S. administration intends to develop missile defense system “to protect against missile-based attacks from states like Iran and North Korea”
But while a discussion of Iran is assured, even if a treaty decision by Trump is unlikely any time seen, an unexpected twist was reported by Israel Channel 2 which said that the "President of the United States Donald Trump will announce tomorrow move of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem"
BREAKING: President of the United States Donald Trump will announce tomorrow move of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem - (Channel 2).— Israel News Feed (@IsraelHatzolah) January 22, 2017
Channel 2 cited an anonymous source as saying a member of the Trump administration would announce the highly controversial move on the President’s first full working day in office. The news channel said it had received no confirmation of the claim and there has been no public statement on the move since Friday's inauguration of the new US President.
As the Independent notes, relocating the US embassy to Jerusalem would represent a major break with US policy. Donald Trump has said repeatedly that he intends to relocate the US embassy to Jerusalem, despite warnings the move would violate international law and destroy the peace process. Earlier in January, US officials and Israeli Foreign Ministry sources said the incoming US ambassador to Israel could be based in Jerusalem, while the official embassy building remains in Tel Aviv.
Relocating the embassy to Jerusalem would be seen as a provocative move by Mr Trump's critics as the city is claimed by both the Israelis and Palestinians as their capital. Israel annexed east Jerusalem in the 1967 Six Day War. The move has not been recognised by the international community.