Stirring up Arab Outrage against a Move of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem May Not be So Easy

FEB. 3 2017

Should President Trump make good on his campaign promise to relocate America’s embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, the Palestinian Authority (PA) president Mahmoud Abbas and his representatives have threatened violence, an end to the PA’s recognition of and security cooperation with the Jewish state, strained U.S. relations with Arab governments, and even unrest across the Arab and Muslim world. Pinḥas Inbari suspects Abbas might not be able to follow through on his threats:

[As an influential London-based Palestinian journalist points out], Abbas would never jeopardize the existence of the PA, and he has already looked the other way on other serious matters. One-hundred-and-fifty families of top PA bureaucrats rely on the salaries he is paying them. Abbas cannot tell his underlings to organize and participate in protests against moving the embassy, lest the demonstrations turn against him.

[As for Arab governments’ support for Abbas, his chief negotiator Saeb] Erekat said in an interview that “with all respect to the Arab capitals, Jerusalem is more important than all the capitals combined.” It is hard to believe that any Arab country would take this insult to pride in its own capital lightly. . . . As a matter of fact, it was reported that Jordan asked the Palestinians to avoid the language of threats [with regard to the embassy] and apply back-channel quiet diplomacy.

Augmenting the importance of Jerusalem may [also] get on the nerves of Saudi Arabia . . . especially since the Saudis are anxious to preserve the supreme holy status of Mecca given Shiite-Sunnite tensions and the targeting of Mecca by Shiite missiles from Yemen. . . . The Saudis cannot tolerate a rivalry posed by Jerusalem. . . . Terrorist Salafist movements, such as Islamic State, have not yet made any reference to Jerusalem. Even leaflets circulated in eastern Jerusalem, which explicitly targeted Christians, contain not a word about Jerusalem or the importance of al-Aqsa. . . .

[A]s far as Jordan is concerned, . . . it would be satisfied with preserving its status [as protector of the Islamic holy sites on the Temple Mount] and has no interest in trying to stop America from moving the embassy, as long as [the new one is] located in west Jerusalem.

What’s more, Inbari writes, Egypt’s President Sisi reportedly told Abbas, in the presence of the Saudi king, that he is “with Trump” on the embassy issue.