Palestinians call for prayers across region against embassy move
JERUSALEM - Palestinian leaders on Tuesday called for prayers at mosques across the Middle East this week to protest plans by President-elect Donald Trump to move the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.
There have been warnings that moving the US embassy to the contested city and recognising Jerusalem as Israel's capital could inflame tensions in the Middle East and possibly sink what remains of peace efforts.
Mohammad Shtayyeh, a senior Palestinian official and Fatah central committee member who was speaking on behalf of the Palestinian leadership, said doing so would mean an "end to the two-state solution".
He said the Palestinian leadership had been informed by diplomatic contacts that Trump could call for the move in his inauguration speech on January 20.
Palestinian leaders are considering whether to withdraw their recognition of Israel if the move goes through, he said.
Shtayyeh called for prayers at mosques throughout the Middle East on Friday as well as for churches to ring their bells in protest on Sunday.
"I think and we all think that moving the embassy to Jerusalem is a dangerous step that will have dangerous consequences for the political track for our people and for our future aspirations and for the Muslim, Arab, Christian countries and people all over the world," said Shtayyeh.
"We are not inciting violence. Ringing a church bell... is not a violent act. Calling for a prayer is not a violent act," he told journalists in the West Bank city of Ramallah.
Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas has written to Trump urging him not to move the embassy while also calling it a "red line" that could jeopardise peace prospects.
The Palestinians regard Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state, while Israel proclaims the entire city as its undivided capital.
The United States and most UN member states do not recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital, and the city's status is one of the thorniest issues of the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Israel occupied the West Bank and east Jerusalem in 1967. It later annexed east Jerusalem in a move never recognised by the international community.
A UN Security Council resolution passed on December 23 called for a stop to Israeli settlement building.
In a rare move, the United States did not use its veto and abstained, enabling the adoption of the first UN resolution since 1979 to condemn Israel over its settlement policy.
France is to hold an international conference on January 15 including some 70 nations aimed at helping restart long-stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts.
Israel has rejected the move and called for direct talks, while the Palestinians have welcomed it.
The conference will take place without the Israelis and Palestinians, though Abbas is to meet French President Francois Hollande on January 16 to be briefed on the proceedings, according to Shtayyeh.