Trump Recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital amid Arab, International Outcry

Trump Recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital amid Arab, International Outcry

Wednesday, 6 December, 2017 - 19:15
US President Donald Trump. (Reuters)
Asharq Al-Awsat
President Donald Trump recognized on Wednesday Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, defying warnings that such a measure would inflame tensions in the Middle East.

In a speech at the White House, Trump said his administration would begin a process of moving the US embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which is expected to take years.

"I have determined that it is time to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel," Trump said.

"While previous presidents have made this a major campaign promise, they failed to deliver. Today, I am delivering."

Israel considers the city its eternal and indivisible capital and wants all embassies based there.

The status of Jerusalem -- home to sites holy to the Muslim, Jewish and Christian religions -- is one of the thorniest obstacles to reaching a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians.

Palestinians want the capital of an independent Palestinian state to be in the city's eastern sector, which Israel captured in a 1967 war and annexed in a move never recognized internationally.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed Trump’s announcement as a “historic landmark" and urged other countries also to move their embassies in Israel to Jerusalem.

He said any peace deal with Palestinians must include Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. This would be a non-starter for Palestinians if it means the entire city would be under Israeli control.

The Palestinians have said Trump's move would mean the "kiss of death" to the two-state solution, envisaging a Palestinian state in territory - the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and East Jerusalem - that Israel took in 1967.

Arab and international condemnation poured in soon after Trump’s announcement.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas contacted Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi to condemn the move. Cairo also slammed Trump’s decision.

Jordan described the development as a violation of international agreements, Turkey deemed it as “irresponsible.”

Lebanon's President Michel Aoun said Trump's Jerusalem decision was dangerous and threatened the credibility of the United States as a broker of the peace process in the region.

He said the decision had put back the peace process by decades, and had threatened regional stability and perhaps global stability.

Lebanon's Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri said on Twitter that Lebanon rejected the decision and had the utmost solidarity with the Palestinian people and their right to establish an independent state with Jerusalem as its capital.

French President Emmanuel Macron said did not support Trump's "unilateral" decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital and called for calm across the region.

"This decision is a regrettable decision that France does not approve of and goes against international law and all the resolutions of the UN Security Council," Macron told reporters at a news conference in Algiers.

"The status of Jerusalem is a question of international security that concerns the entire international community. The status of Jerusalem must be determined by Israelis and Palestinians in the framework of negotiations under the auspices of the United Nations," he said.

"France and Europe are attached to a two-state solution - Israel and Palestine - leaving side by side in peace and security within recognized international borders with Jerusalem the capital of both states," he said, adding that Paris was ready to work with partners to find a solution.

"For now, I urge for calm and for everyone to be responsible. We must avoid at all costs avoid violence and foster dialogue," he said.

Chancellor Angela Merkel said Germany "does not support" the Trump administration on Jerusalem, whose status to be settled as part of negotiations on a two-state solution.

British Prime Minister Theresa May disagrees with the US decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel because it is unlikely to help efforts to bring peace to the region, her spokesman.

"We disagree with the US decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem and recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital before a final status agreement," the spokesman said. "We believe it is unhelpful in terms of prospects for peace in the region."

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres said that there was no alternative to a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians and that Jerusalem was a final-status issue that should be resolved through direct talks.

"I have consistently spoken out against any unilateral measures that would jeopardize the prospect of peace for Israelis and Palestinians," he added.

"In this moment of great anxiety, I want to make it clear: There is no alternative to the two-state solution. There is no Plan B," he told reporters. "I will do everything in my power to support the Israeli and Palestinian leaders to return to meaningful negotiations."

Ahead of Trump's announcement, Washington's allies in the region warned of dangerous repercussions.

Pope Francis called for Jerusalem's status quo to be respected, saying new tension would further inflame world conflicts. China and Russia expressed concern the plans could aggravate Middle East hostilities. A Palestinian envoy said the decision was a declaration of war in the Middle East.

Trump said his move is not intended to tip the scale in favor of Israel and that any deal involving the future of Jerusalem would have to be negotiated by the parties.

He said he remained committed to the two-state solution between the Israelis and Palestinians if they parties want one.

Amid warnings of potential unrest in the Middle East, the president called on the region to take his message calmly and with moderation.

"There will of course be disagreement and dissent regarding this announcement—but we are confident that ultimately, as we work through these disagreements, we will arrive at a place of greater understanding and cooperation," Trump said.

His announcement fulfills a core pledge of his election campaign last year Trump said his move reflected the reality of Jerusalem as the center of Jewish faith and the fact that the city is the seat of the Israeli government.

Trump's decision is likely to please his core supporters - Republican conservatives and evangelical Christians who comprise an important share of his political base.

He acted under a 1995 law that requires the United States to move its embassy to Jerusalem. His predecessors, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, had consistently put off that decision to avoid inflaming tensions in the Middle East.

Trump signed a waiver delaying the embassy move from Tel Aviv since the United States does not have an embassy structure in Jerusalem to move into. A senior administration official said it could take three to four years to build one.

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