JERUSALEM – Jerusalem's mayor said Tuesday that he is confident Donald Trump will move the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a break in U.S. policy that is sure to anger Palestinians, who claim the eastern sector of the city for their future capital.
Mayor Nir Barkat told The Associated Press that he has been in touch with Trump's staff about the issue. While previous presidential candidates have made similar promises, Barkat said his conversations have led him to believe that Trump is serious about making the move.
"Naturally my intuition tells me that it's different this time, knowing the people hearing his statements, where we are today," Barkat said.
Transferring the embassy to Jerusalem would be a highly symbolic and politically charged act. The fate of the east Jerusalem is at the heart of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. Virtually all embassies to Israel are located in or around Tel Aviv.
Israel captured east Jerusalem in the 1967 Mideast war and annexed it in a move that is not internationally recognized. It claims the entire city as its capital. The Palestinians seek east Jerusalem, home to key Jewish, Muslim and Christian holy sites, as the capital of their future state.
"The United States of America has embassies in all of the world's capitals with the exception of Israel," Barkat said. "That's absurd, and moving the embassy to the capital of the Jewish people, to Jerusalem, is a straightforward, standard thing to do."
Barkat spoke a day after Trump's spokeswoman Kellyanne Conway told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt that the president-elect is determined to move the embassy to Jerusalem when he takes office
"That is a very big priority for this president-elect, Donald Trump," she said. "He made that very clear during the campaign, Hugh. And as president-elect, I've heard him repeat it several times privately, if not publicly."
The moving of the embassy, and recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital, enjoys broad support among Israel's Jewish majority. Speaking to foreign reporters Monday, before Conway's comments had been reported, opposition lawmaker Yair Lapid called the proposal an "excellent idea."
Moving the embassy to Jerusalem would signal U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital, a move that would infuriate Palestinians, break decades of American policy and distance the U.S. from most of the international community, including its closest allies in Western Europe.
The Palestinians condemned the idea.
"Any attempt to move the embassy to Jerusalem will not help achieve peace," said Adnan Husseini, Palestinian minister for Jerusalem affairs. He urged Trump to instead push for the establishment of a Palestinian state as part of a peace settlement with Israel.
Trump has said he would like to broker a peace deal, but he has given few details on how he hopes to do so. He has raised concerns among Palestinians because many of his advisers take hard-line positions that favor Israel, and his campaign platform made no mention of Palestinian independence — a U.S. position for the past two decades.
The last round of U.S.-mediated peace talks collapsed over two years ago.