RAMALLAH, West Bank — As promised, imams at mosques in the Palestinian towns and villages of the West Bank preached on Friday against President-elect Donald Trump’s promise to move the U.S. Embassy to the contested city of Jerusalem.
Palestinian leaders called for sermons and prayer to oppose the relocation. Muslim preachers on the Palestinian Authority payroll received suggested talking points about the possible embassy move.
At the Jamal Abdel Nasser Mosque in Ramallah, the cleric warned that moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem could “engulf the region in the flames.”
But there were no major demonstrations on Friday in the West Bank against the proposed embassy move — though there were the usual demonstrations in Bilin and Kafr Qaddum, as there have been weekly for years.
The preacher in Ramallah, Saleh Mutan, told his listeners that “the Americans always say they are neutral, but this step will be a slap in the face.”
Mutan reminded the faithful that such a move would mark a reversal of years of U.S. policy, and he suggested that moving the embassy would threaten not only Palestinian aspirations to have their future capital in Jerusalem but also Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third-holiest site in Islam and a searing-hot red button for Palestinians.
“Jerusalem is in the heart of each and every Muslim in the world,” he said.
Every U.S. administration has wrestled with the embassy issue since the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, when Israel captured the eastern, Arab half of Jerusalem from Jordan in six days of fighting.
Israel considers Jerusalem its “eternal, undivided capital.”
Palestinians want East Jerusalem to be the capital of their long-hoped-for future state.
In election after election, American presidential candidates have vowed to relocate the U.S. Embassy, then reversed themselves once in office. Every embassy in Israel is in Tel Aviv.
Trump’s transition team has signaled that he may carry out his promise. Trump’s bankruptcy lawyer, David Friedman, the designated U.S. ambassador to Israel, has said he expects to take up his post in Jerusalem. Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway called it a major focus.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas pleaded with Trump in a letter not to move the embassy.
Advocates for the embassy move say Trump should not be cowed by threats of violence.
Israel’s ambassador in Washington, Ron Dermer, has said the move would send “a strong message against the delegitimization of Israel and of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital.”
At the Ramallah mosque, worshippers heard the message and said after the sermon that they would wait to see what happens next.
“If the Americans are sincere and they really want to help both sides make peace, they will not move the embassy,” said Ismail Shawi, 55, a nurse. “The Americans are the major players. With them, peace is possible. Without, there is nothing.”
Abu Khalid, 65, a businessman in Ramallah, said, “Wait till President Trump goes to Saudi Arabia. The king will tell him, ‘Don’t move the embassy,’ and he will listen to the king.”
His friend, Abu Alaa, 56, said, “Either Trump supports two states, or he doesn’t. We know the Americans support the Israelis more than the Palestinians. We are not ignorant. But if Trump moves the embassy, the mask is off. We have lost the Americans.”
Sufian Taha contributed to this report.