State Dept. told to prepare for violent protests if US embassy moves to Jerusalem

Current US embassy in Tel Aviv, Israel

The State Department’s security arm has been told to plan for potentially violent protests at US embassies and consulates once the Trump administration announces it is moving the embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

“We were told that this is definitely coming, and we need to be ready for it,” one official said.

President Donald Trump could announce as early as Tuesday that the US recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, US officials with direct knowledge of the matter and foreign diplomats have told CNN. Upon making the decision public, Trump is expected to sign a waiver to keep the US embassy in Tel Aviv for another six months, but say his administration will move the diplomatic mission to Jerusalem at some point — a goal long sought by Israel.

The Diplomatic Security Service, which is charged with protecting US posts and personnel overseas, was already bracing for possible protests after Trump retweeted anti-Muslim videos on Wednesday. Officials feared a reprise of the violent protests at US embassies in the Middle East that erupted in September 2012 following the publication of an anti-Muslim video on the internet. Embassies in that region were already on high security alert.

A White House official confirmed that the White House was alerted to those concerns by the State Department.

“It didn’t manifest in anything actionable, but it was a big concern,” one State Department official said about the President’s retweets of the videos. “We saw in Cairo and other places that simply posting something on the internet, even if nothing was intended by it, could have real consequences.”

Although no incidents were reported this week over the videos Trump retweeted, one senior official said the situation served as a useful exercise in planning for the Jerusalem embassy announcement.

“If there were protests, that would give us a good idea of where it was going to get hot and where we needed to take additional measures,” the official said.

The officials said planning was solely limited to how to react for possible protests after the announcement and did not include any preparations for protecting any new or existing US facilities in Jerusalem. In the event the embassy does move to Jerusalem, the Diplomatic Security Service would be involved in securing the facility and its personnel.