French President Warns Trump Over Possible Israel Embassy Move

(Bloomberg) -- French President Emmanuel Macron told President Donald Trump that he’s concerned about the possibility that the U.S. might unilaterally recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, ahead of a decision expected this week.

In a phone call on Monday, Macron “reaffirmed that the status of Jerusalem must be resolved through peace negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians,” France’s embassy to the U.S. said in a statement.

The message from France was only the latest expression of concern ahead of a deadline for Trump to either announce the U.S. embassy will move to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv or delay a decision for another six months, as required by a 1995 law. Every U.S. president since Bill Clinton has waived that requirement. On Sunday, White House National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster told “Fox News Sunday” he didn’t know whether Trump would move the embassy.

French President Warns Trump Over Possible Israel Embassy Move

The White House’s own four-sentence read-out of Trump’s call with Macron said only that the two men “discussed the path to peace in the Middle East,” among other issues.

A White House spokesman, Hogan Gidley, told reporters aboard Air Force One that there would be no announcement on the embassy or on Jerusalem on Monday. Trump will announce his decision “in the coming days,” he said.

The president “has been clear on this issue from the get-go that it’s not a matter of if, but a matter of when,” he said.

Previous U.S. presidents, including Clinton and George W. Bush, pledged to move the Israel embassy in their campaigns, only to abandon the promise in the face of political reality. Middle East experts have warned that moving the embassy to a city considered sacred to followers of three major religions would make it harder for Israelis and Palestinians to reach a final peace agreement.

Regardless of any decision on the embassy, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party called for demonstrations on Wednesday all over the West Bank and the Arab world if Trump recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, according to a statement from Fatah.

On a practical level, the U.S. has no property in Jerusalem big enough to house the work of its embassy in Tel Aviv. Building one would likely take years. It would also likely antagonize key U.S. allies in the region, including Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

On Nov. 30, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Monday was the deadline for Trump to submit a waiver under the 1995 law. She said no decision had been made yet. White House officials declined to preview the president’s expected announcement.

The French readout didn’t report Trump’s reaction to Macron’s concerns, saying only that the two leaders agreed “to revisit this issue again soon.”

©2017 Bloomberg L.P.