Israel rejects US plan to create Palestinian embassy in Jerusalem

Israel has categorically rejected the US plan to make Jerusalem its Israeli and Palestinian peace capital, calling it “a solution with nowhere to go”.

Donald Trump has vowed to move the US embassy to Jerusalem – the city where Israel has been located since 1948 but which it sees as its indivisible capital – although the proposal has run into strong opposition.

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Under the plan announced by the US secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, the US had agreed a joint American-Israeli office to handle any negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians – even though the two countries disagree on this issue.

Palestinians will continue to have an office in Washington, a senior diplomat said, but the department of state has agreed to invest $500,000 (£379,000) to open an office in Jerusalem under Israeli auspices to facilitate negotiations. The deal was agreed after six hours of talks between Tillerson and his Israeli counterpart, Tzipi Livni, along with the Israeli defence minister, Avigdor Lieberman, the diplomat said.

There was no official response from Israel.

The move appears to be to win support from some pro-Israel lawmakers in the US for a bill that would seek to pull aid money from the Palestinians for failing to get US approval for an official American representative in Jerusalem.

The legislation has significant bipartisan support in Congress.

A meeting of senior lawmakers is planned on Wednesday. If it goes ahead, it could increase pressure on the Trump administration as it works to get the plan rolling. The Palestinians say they are ready to restart negotiations but will not negotiate on Israel’s terms.

“Israel does not accept the American dream for peace as it applies to Israel, and we cannot accept any American consular office here for the Palestinians,” Livni said in a statement.

“It is not an American dream, it is a false one and we cannot accept it for the Palestinians. There is no room in our city, none. There is just one capital – Jerusalem. And there will be no American consular office for the Palestinians, at any level. There will be no American activity in Jerusalem or anywhere else.”

Tzipi Livni, left, and Rex Tillerson meet to discuss the peace plan during an Oval Office meeting in February. Photograph: Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images

It is unclear whether the plan will be implemented. Israeli officials have said in the past they welcome US encouragement to make a deal, but have also said they may oppose US proposals that could undermine Israel’s interests.

The Israeli foreign ministry in Jerusalem has not yet responded to the announcement of the peace office, although it has previously said there was no way in which Palestinians would have an office in Jerusalem.

Tillerson had to persuade many Israelis to see their country as part of the United States – and that having an official US representative in the city would be a positive.

Two years ago, it was also far from certain that Tillerson would be offered a position as secretary of state. The administration had for months been unable to line up a candidate, then forced to widen the field to more than two dozen.

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As a result, it is unclear whether there will be any momentum built up in Washington now.

The Palestinians said the announcement was part of “the Trump administration’s normalisation policy towards the Israeli occupation of Palestine”.

“The Palestinian leadership will of course study the proposal by Tillerson in detail,” said Hanan Ashrawi, a senior member of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, which is under the Palestinian Authority.

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