Trump's Jerusalem Stance Raises Tension With Arab Allies

The first signs of strain with President

Donald Trump’s

administration among his closest Arab allies have surfaced over the policy shift on Jerusalem, an indication that the U.S. is at risk of alienating potential partners in the pursuit of Mideast peace and the building of a coalition to counter Iran.

In a rare public rebuke to its most important ally, Saudi Arabia in a statement Thursday criticized the


administration’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the U.S. embassy to the city. It called on the White House to reverse the “irresponsible and unwarranted step,” saying it would lead to “a drastic regression” in peace prospects.


was joined in its condemnation by Jordan, one of the most moderate U.S. allies in the region. Amman in a statement lambasted the White House decision, saying it “fuels anger and inflames the passions of Muslims and Christians throughout the Arab and Muslim worlds.” Iraq’s foreign ministry summoned U.S. ambassador

Douglas A. Silliman

to hand him a letter of protest over the Jerusalem move.

Critics say

Mr. Trump’s

decision, laid out in a policy speech Wednesday in Washington, could endanger months of U.S. efforts to deepen ties with Arab states. It also risks inflaming anti-U.S. protests and stoking violence across the Middle East.

​It’s still unclear to what extent the public statements by Arab governments reflect a major change in their ties with the U.S., but the governments have repeatedly warned the White House against the Jerusalem decision in phone calls and public statements over the past week.

The U.S. had worked closely with Saudi Arabia, Jordan and other Arab allies to pull together an Israeli-Palestinian peace push, but also to create a nucleus of nations to counter Iranian expansion in the Middle East. Arab capitals had welcomed these efforts, after criticizing the Obama White House for shifting attention from the region to Asia.

Israel had become an unofficial partner in the more robust anti-Iran stance taken between the White House and Arab states. Now the Jerusalem issue threatens to divide them, jeopardizing back-channel ties between the Israeli government and Sunni Arab states.

In another sign of tension, Mr. Trump on Wednesday issued criticism of Saudi foreign policy, calling on the kingdom to immediately allow aid into Yemen, where a Saudi-led coalition is fighting against Houthi rebels aligned with Iran.

Arab countries have warned that Mr. Trump’s decision on Jerusalem could spark violence across the region.

Regional extremist groups, such as al Qaeda in Yemen and Tahrir al Sham, a militant group involved in the Syria conflict, sought to take advantage of the U.S. move, calling on jihadists to react violently. An Iran-backed


militia called Nujaba that is fighting in Iraq and neighboring Syria said it provided “a legitimate reason to target the U.S.”

Israeli officials, who have mostly welcomed the U.S. decision, prepared for a spike in violence in Israel and Palestinians territories.

Islamist movement Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, called for a new Palestinian uprising, or intifada, against Israel. Palestinians have twice launched intifadas that lasted for years and caused thousands of casualties on both sides. The second one largely ended in 2005 at the same Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip.

Palestinians planned protests in cities across the West Bank and Gaza Strip for the afternoon.

The Israeli military said it would reinforce security in the West Bank with hundreds of soldiers and put reserve forces on standby. Israeli forces command parts of the West Bank and Palestinian Authority security forces maintain order in Palestinian cities in the territory.

Palestinian Authority President

Mahmoud Abbas

on Wednesday said that the U.S. decision on Jerusalem all but ended any role the White House will play in future peace talks with Israel.

The U.S. State Department warned its embassies around the world to prepare for possible protests and violence and banned travel by government employees and their families to Jerusalem’s Old City and the West Bank.

A host of Arab and Muslim states had publicly opposed the White House plan, with Saudi Arabian King Salman, Jordan’s King Abdullah and Egyptian President

Abdel Fattah Al Sisi

all warning the U.S. against the move in phone calls with Mr. Trump.

Write to Rory Jones at and Margherita Stancati at

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