The suggestion that Trump might unilaterally recognize Jerusalem – parts of which Palestinians also claim for the capital of their own future state – has been circulating in recent days as the US president deliberates on whether to renew the six-monthly waiver to a law mandating the transfer of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
The deadline for Trump to sign the waiver falls on Monday amid claims – including by his son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner on Sunday evening – that he has still not decided what to do.
Kushner – who was speaking at the Saban Forum in Washington for the first time at length in public about his role in the Middle East peace process – said the president was “still looking at a lot of facts”.
The suggestion that Trump could designate Jerusalem Israel’s capital was being touted as a step short of moving the embassy. While largely symbolic, it is being fiercely opposed by a number of countries in the region.
The White House was warned again last week by US foreign policy and security officials of the risks to US diplomacy and security in the region raised by moving the embassy.
According to a spokesman, Abbas was holding a series of phone calls on Sunday with world leaders both to “explain the dangers of any decision to move the embassy to Jerusalem or recognize [Jerusalem] as Israel’s capital”.
“Any American step related to the recognition of Jerusalem as capital of Israel, or moving the US embassy to Jerusalem, represents a threat to the future of the peace process and is unacceptable for the Palestinians, Arabs and internationally,” Abbas told a group of visiting Arab lawmakers from Israel.
Abbas’s calls so far have included those to Arab leaders, the French president, Emmanuel Macron, and the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, amid fears that Palestinian concerns may not have been taken into consideration by the White House.
Erdoğan told Abbas that an independent Palestinian state must have East Jerusalem as its capital, the Turkish state-run Anadolu news agency reported.
Abbas was also said to be seeking meetings of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the Arab League to discuss the issue.
While the consensus had been that Trump would sign the waiver on the US embassy, the unpredictability of the US president – fed by reports that he is seeking to make a pro-Israel gesture – has fuelled anxieties.
Jordan, the current president of the Arab League, would invite members of the two bodies to convene if the recognition is extended, to “discuss ways of dealing with the consequences of such a decision that raised alarm and concern”, a senior Jordanian diplomatic source told Reuters.
“It could ultimately hamper all efforts to get the peace process moving and holds a very high risk of provoking Arab and Muslim countries and Muslim communities in the west,” said the diplomatic source, asking not to be named.
Speaking to Fox News on Sunday, Trump’s national security adviser, HR McMaster, said that the president’s advisers had presented him with a number of options on this issue.
“There are options involving the move of an embassy at some point in the future, which I think, you know, could be used to gain momentum toward a peace agreement, and a solution that works both for Israelis and for Palestinians,” McMaster said.