TEHRAN (Press Shia) – US President Donald Trump appears to have missed a deadline for signing a waiver on a US law requiring its embassy to be moved to Jerusalem (al-Quds), in an act of brinkmanship over one of the Middle East’s most fraught issues.
According to diplomats and Palestinians officials, the original deadline was expected to have fallen on Friday at midnight and was pushed to Monday. That deadline passed without an announcement after a White House official said no action would be taken on Monday.
Amid mounting anxiety over Trump’s intentions, the US president was facing a growing chorus of warnings over potential repercussions over a unilateral US decision regarding Jerusalem’s status.
The Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, described the status of Jerusalem as a “red line” for Muslims that could lead to a severing of relations with the Zionist regime of Israel, while the European Union warned of possible “serious repercussions”.
Some reports suggest Trump may reluctantly announce the signing of the waiver in the coming days, others that he may also announce that he plans to recognize al-Quds as Israel’s capital. The latter would result in the Palestinian leadership “stopping contacts” with the US, a diplomatic adviser to President Mahmoud Abbas said.
In June, Trump issued a waiver to comply with the 1995 law, which insists the president must relocate the embassy to Jerusalem or explain at six-monthly intervals why doing so is not in the national security interests of the US.
The failure to announce the signing of the newest waiver does not indicate whether or not the US president has approved it. However, it feeds into a growing tension in the region.
Israel has occupied East Jerusalem since the 1967 Middle East war. It annexed the area in 1980 and sees it as its exclusive domain. Under international law, the area is considered to be occupied territory.
All foreign embassies are located in Tel Aviv with consular representation in Jerusalem. For more than two decades successive US administrations have signed a legal waiver delaying by six months plans to move the US embassy to the Holy City.
Arab League Secretary-General Ahmad Aboul Gheit warned any such move would pose a threat “to the stability of the Middle East and the whole world”, while the French president, Emmanuel Macron, warned Trump that Jerusalem’s status must be decided “within the framework of negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians”.
The White House statement saying that Trump would miss the deadline came after a frantic 48 hours of public warnings from allies and private phone calls between world leaders.
“The president has been clear on this issue from the get-go: it’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when,” said White House spokesman Hogan Gidley, who said a declaration on the move would be made “in the coming days”.
Palestinian sources made clear they had expected the waiver to be continued. “We were told the waiver would be signed,” one official told the Guardian. “The expectation of (Palestinian) President Mahmoud Abbas office was that then Trump would recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, which we and no Arab leader can accept.
“If that happens,” the source added, “we will walk away from contacts with US officials.”