US Israel embassy move threat to Oslo Peace Agreements

Photo: Krokodyl / Wikimedia Commons
The current U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv. Moving it may cause disruption in the region.

Michael Sandelson & Charlotte Bryan
The Foreigner

The PLO threatens to revoke its recognition of Israel if Donald Trump moves the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Sources on Palestine and Israel tell The Foreigner that sagacity and caution are needed.

“One of the measures we are considering seriously is the issue of mutual recognition between the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization) and Israel. [It] is not valid any more doing this,” senior Palestinian negotiator Mohammed Shtayyeh told reporters.

And in a letter to incoming U.S. President Donald Trump, Palestinian Leader Mahmoud Abbas has warned that this “will likely have disastrous impact on the peace process, on the two-state solution, and on the stability and security of the entire region, since Israel’s decision to annex East Jerusalem contradicts with international law.”

For the first time, Israel and the PLO announced formal mutual recognition in 1993, when Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and PLO chairman Yasser Arafat signed the historic Oslo Peace Accord (Oslo I).

August 1993 saw the Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements (DoP), also referred to as the Oslo Peace Accord, initialed during a secret ceremony at the Norwegian Government Guest House in the Norwegian capital.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Abu Ala and his Israeli counterpart Uri Savir signed the accord, which was witnessed by then Norwegian Foreign Minister Johan Jørgen Holst.

Speculation about the decision to move the U.S. Embassy arose following Donald Trump’s announcement to the American Israel Public Affair Committee lobbying group in the middle of his election campaign last year. “We will move the American embassy to the eternal capital of the Jewish people, Jerusalem—and we will send a clear signal that there is no daylight between America and our most reliable ally, the state of Israel,” he said.

Earlier this month, three Republican Senators introduced a bill to recognize Jerusalem as the official capital of Israel and move the U.S. embassy there. Relocation would reverse decades of U.S. policy, which currently states that the status of East Jerusalem should be decided in peace talks with the Palestinians.

Israel’s occupation of the eastern—and mainly Arab—side of the city, which happened during the 1967 Arab-Israeli Six-Day War, is considered illegal under international law. Israel’s passing of a law in 1980, making its annexation of East Jerusalem explicit, is not recognized internationally.

“If Trump moves the embassy to Jerusalem, that would be the end of the two-state solution. Trump would be giving away something that is not his to give,” Shtayyeh has told reporters.

Kathrine Jensen, Chair of the Palestine Committee of Norway, tells The Foreigner that Trump’s announced U.S. embassy move is “highly provocative. And the only country in the world that recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel is Israel itself.”

“It’s very understandable that the PLO threatens to revoke their recognition of the state of Israel,” Jensen says. “The statement is powerful, but it seems unlikely that they will follow it through. There is little or nothing to gain from it.”

President of the State of Palestine and Palestinian National Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, told the UN General Assembly in 2015 that Palestinians will no longer continue to be bound by the Oslo Accords unless they get international protection.

“Israel has repeatedly broken the agreement, so why should the Palestinians feel obligated to continue to respect the agreement?” states Jensen.

It has not yet been announced which part of Jerusalem is being considered regarding the planned U.S. embassy relocation. Oded Eran, a former Israeli ambassador to the EU and now researcher for The Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) in Tel Aviv, lists other variables.

“It can be carried out in various forms. For example, the U.S. can direct its ambassador to operate from a building in Jerusalem while the embassy is still located in Tel Aviv,” he remarks.

“We can call threats by various people, including the PLO, as early warning shots. I’m not sure what impact these will have on the upcoming U.S. President’s decision. At the same time, it’s a fact that all states who conduct affairs with Israel recognize West Jerusalem as being the capital.”

Dan Poraz, Deputy Chief of Mission at Israel’s embassy in Oslo, states that “I can’t really see how moving the embassy from Tel Aviv to the capital of Israel, where the embassy should be in the first place, is breaching the Accords in anyway.”

Poraz suggests that by moving the embassy Trump stands to “gain the trust of voters, the international community, and people all over the world.”

Israel would also gain from Trump’s move, according to Poraz: “It would definitely signal that things are moving in the right direction, in their view. Moreover, moving the embassy doesn’t contradict any desire for a peaceful two-state solution, unlike what some Palestinian officials have said in the past few days,” he explains.

An extended version of this article was originally published on The Foreigner. To subscribe to The Foreigner, visit

It also appeared in the Jan. 27, 2017, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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