Defiant Trump says previous presidents failed to deliver on this but ‘today, I am delivering’
Calls his decision ‘a long overdue’ step to advance the peace process
Palestinians dub the move as ‘kiss of death’ for Middle East peace process
WASHINGTON/LAHORE: Defying the global diplomatic community, in a move that sent shockwaves around the world, US President Donald Trump reversed decades of US policy and recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel on Wednesday.
The former reality star paid no heed to warnings from various countries and organisations that the gesture further drives a wedge between Israel and the Palestinians.
In a speech at the White House, Trump said his administration would also 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 recognise 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.”
Trump called his decision “a long overdue” step to advance the peace process.
.@POTUS: I have determined that it is time to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. I’ve judged this course of action to be in the best interest in the United States of America and the pursuit of peace between Israel and Palestinians. pic.twitter.com/X2eogVU4M0
— Department of State (@StateDept) December 6, 2017
Trump said “we are not taking a position on any final status issues” of which the fate of the holy city is one of the most emotive, and that it would be up to Israelis and Palestinians to negotiate boundaries.
“The United States remains deeply committed to helping facilitate a peace agreement that is acceptable to both sides. I intend to do everything in my power to help forge such an agreement,” he added.
The status of Jerusalem—home to sites holy to the Muslim, Jewish and Christian religions—has been one of the thorniest issues in long-running Mideast peace efforts.
Israel considers the city its eternal and indivisible capital and wants all embassies based there. Palestinians, on the other hand, want the capital of an independent Palestinian state to be in the city’s eastern sector, which Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war and annexed in a move never recognised internationally.
The contentious decision is likely to please his core supporters—Republican conservatives and evangelical Christians who comprise an important share of his political base.
Trump aides contend the move reflects the reality of Jerusalem as the centre of Jewish faith and the fact that the city is the seat of the Israeli government.
Trump 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.
The Palestinians’ representative to the UK, Manuel Hassassian, told the BBC that the changes to US policy on Jerusalem amounted to a “kiss of death” for the two-state solution in peace efforts and were like a “declaration of war”.
Hundreds of Palestinians in Gaza have demonstrated ahead of Trump’s bold announcement.
The protests were organised by various Palestinian factions and military groups, calling for Palestinian unity. Demonstrators waved Palestinian flags and banners declaring Jerusalem to be “our eternal capital.” They also burned American and Israeli flags.
Protests in various other countries have already started, which are expected to intensify in the coming days.
Leaders from around the world, including Pakistan, reacted strongly to the move.
“President Abbas warned of the dangerous consequences such a decision would have to the peace process and to the peace, security and stability of the region and of the world,” Nabil Abu Rudeina, the Palestinian president’s spokesperson, said in a statement after Trump’s call.
Pakistan, reaffirming full solidarity with the Palestinian people, expressed concern over the proposed move by the United States to shift its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, saying “such a step would constitute a clear violation of international law and UN Security Council (UNSC) resolutions”.
“It is deeply regrettable that pleas from states across the globe not to alter the legal and historical status of Al-Quds Al-Sharif have been ignored, more out of choice than necessity,” said a statement released by the Foreign Office minutes after Trump recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Meanwhile, a statement issued by the Prime Minister Office stated that shifting the US embassy to the “occupied City of Al-Quds Al-Sharif will alter the legal and historical status of the city”.
PM Office said the people and government of Pakistan are unequivocally opposed to the reported plan of shifting the US embassy, adding that, “Pakistan fully endorses the recently adopted final communique of the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) on this issue.”
The Turkish government’s spokesman said that the United States’ decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel will plunge the region and the world into “a fire with no end in sight”.
“Declaring Jerusalem a capital is disregarding history and the truths in the region, it is a big injustice/cruelty, shortsightedness, foolishness/madness, it is plunging the region and the world into a fire with no end in sight,” Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag said on Twitter.
China warned that Trump’s plan to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital could fuel tensions in the region.
“We are concerned about the possible escalation of tensions,” foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a regular news briefing.
“All relevant parties should bear regional peace and tranquillity in mind, be cautious in words and deeds, avoid impacting the foundation for the settlement of the issue of Palestine, and avoid causing new confrontation in the region.”
Speaking to reporters in Moscow, President Vladimir Putin’s spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, said the “the situation is not easy.”
He said Putin discussed the issue with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas late on Tuesday and expressed his concern about “a possible deterioration” as a result of Trump’s announcement.
Peskov said, however, that the Kremlin would refrain from commenting a decision that has not been announced yet.
British Prime Minister Theresa May said she intended to speak to Trump about the status of Jerusalem, which she said should be determined as part of a settlement between Israel and the Palestinians.
May said the ancient city should ultimately be shared between Israel and a future Palestinian state. She said there should be a sovereign and viable Palestinian state as part of a two-state solution.
“The status of Jerusalem should be determined in a negotiated settlement between the Israelis and the Palestinians,” said May. “Jerusalem should ultimately form a shared capital between the Israeli and Palestinians.”
Earlier, British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Boris Johnson said Britain had no plans to move its embassy.
French President Emmanuel Macron said he 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.
Germany’s foreign minister warned that any US move to recognise Jerusalem as the capital would be dangerous and could deepen the Middle East conflict.
Sigmar Gabriel said Tuesday that “recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel does not calm a conflict, rather it fuels it even more,” and that such a move “would be a very dangerous development.”
Gabriel told reporters at NATO headquarters in Brussels that “it’s in everyone’s interest that this does not happen.”
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said the planned declaration serves as a sign of US “incompetence and failure,” according to a transcript on Iranian state TV’s website. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said there was “no place for new adventurism by global oppressors,” according to Mizan, the news site for the Iranian judiciary.
Jordan’s King Abdullah II told Trump that such a decision would have “dangerous repercussions on the stability and security of the region”, according to a statement released by the palace.
The king also warned the US president of the risks of any decision that ran counter to a final settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict based on the creation of an independent Palestinian state with its capital in East Jerusalem.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, in a statement, also cautioned Trump against “taking measures that would undermine the chances of peace in the Middle East”.
“The Egyptian president affirmed the Egyptian position on preserving the legal status of Jerusalem within the framework of international references and relevant UN resolutions,” the statement said.
Following a separate phone conversation with Trump, Saudi King Salman also told the US president “that any American announcement regarding the situation of Jerusalem prior to reaching a permanent settlement will harm peace talks and increase tensions in the area”.
A statement by state-run news agency SPA quoted the king as saying that the kingdom supported the Palestinian people and their historic rights and asserted that “such a dangerous step is likely to inflame the passions of Muslims around the world due to the great status of Jerusalem and the al-Aqsa mosque”.
The Trudeau government said Tuesday it will not move the Canadian embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.
A government official told The Globe and Mail that Canada will keep its embassy in Tel Aviv. The official also said Canada still does not recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital city
Pope Francis called for the status quo of Jerusalem to be respected, and for “wisdom and prudence” to prevail to avoid further conflict.
Francis declared Jerusalem a unique and sacred place for Christians, Jews and Muslims that has a “special vocation for peace.”
He appealed “that everyone respects the status quo of the city,” according to UN resolutions.
Indonesia showed its unwavering support for Palestine by officially taking a stance against the highly contentious plan to move its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Agus Maftuh Abegebriel, Indonesia’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia and Indonesia’s representative at the Organization of Islamic Cooperation expressed strong disapproval of the plan.
European Union’s top diplomat Federica Mogherini said “any action that would undermine” peace efforts to create two separate states for the Israelis and the Palestinians “must absolutely be avoided.”
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has “consistently warned against any unilateral action that would have the potential to undermine the two-state solution”, his spokesman, Stephane Dujarric, told reporters in New York.
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. — @antonioguterres on the Middle East Peace Process: https://t.co/0eP9lzTjL4 pic.twitter.com/BtjwokDlzH
— United Nations (@UN) December 6, 2017
Arab League chief Ahmed Aboul-Gheit warned the United States not to take any measures that would change Jerusalem’s current legal and political status.