Washington- President Donald Trump recognised occupied Jerusalem as Israel’s capital Wednesday, prompting an almost universal diplomatic backlash and fears of new bloodshed in the Middle East.
I have determined that it is time to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. I am also directing the State Department to begin preparation to move the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem... pic.twitter.com/YwgWmT0O8m— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 6, 2017
Trump’s defiant move, making good on a core campaign pledge, ended seven decades of US ambiguity on the status of the Holy City vociferously claimed by Israelis and Palestinians.
America’s leader appeared further isolated, as allies and foes alike denounced his decision and Palestinians questioned whether their dream of statehood, as part of a peace deal brokered by Washington, was still possible.
But the US president claimed this marked the start of a “new approach” to solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“Israel is a sovereign nation with the right like every other sovereign nation to determine its own capital,” Trump declared from the White House.
“It is time to officially recognise [occupied] Jerusalem as the capital of Israel,” he said, urging calm and “the voices of tolerance to prevail over the purveyors of hate.”
Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas said Trump’s “deplorable and unacceptable” move signified America’s withdrawal as a sponsor of the peace process.
Hamas - the Palestinian Islamist movement that runs the Gaza Strip - warned Trump had opened “the gates of hell on US interests in the region.”
And although welcomed by Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a “courageous and just decision,” Trump’s move left many angry US allies struggling to find a measured response.
Through gritted teeth, Britain described the move as “unhelpful” and France as “regrettable.” Germany said plainly that it “does not support” Trump’s decision.
Eight countries including Britain, France and Italy pressed for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council in response to the move, diplomats said.
The leaders of Muslim nations meanwhile deployed ever-harsher rhetoric to describe Trump’s decision, dashing any hope of a muted response that would help avoid inflaming passions.
Making the announcement, Trump also kicked off the process of moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to occupied Jerusalem.
In doing so he begins to make good on a campaign promise dear to evangelical Christian and right wing Jewish voters - as well as donors.
Trump’s predecessors - from Bill Clinton to George Bush - had made the same promise, but quickly reneged upon taking office and assuming responsibility for war and peace.
The 45th US president was determined to show his arrival in Washington spells the end of business as usual, suggesting his predecessors failed to act though lack of “courage.”
Moving the embassy will probably take years to implement, but the repercussions of Trump’s decision preceded even his announcement.
Hundreds of Palestinians burned US and Israeli flags as well as pictures of Trump in the Gaza Strip, while relatively small clashes erupted near the flashpoint West Bank city of Hebron.
The Palestine Liberation Organization announced a strike across the West Bank Thursday, while Hamas called for a “day of rage” on Friday.
US government officials and their families were ordered to avoid Jerusalem’s Old City and the West Bank, though the situation remained largely calm up until Trump’s address.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, on a visit to Germany, said the United States had “implemented robust security plans to protect the safety of Americans in affected regions.”
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called for a summit of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the main pan-Islamic body, in Istanbul next week to display joint action over Jerusalem.
Jordan and the Palestinians also requested an emergency meeting of the Arab League.
Peace still possible, US says
Most of the international community does not formally recognise occupied Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, insisting the issue can only be resolved in negotiations - a point reiterated by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in the wake of Trump’s decision.
Guterres implicitly criticised Trump, stressing his opposition to “any unilateral measures that would jeopardise the prospect of peace.”
Trump insisted the move did not prejudge final talks, saying it simply reflected the reality that west Jerusalem is and will continue to be part of Israel under any settlement.
“This is nothing more or less than a recognition of reality. It is also the right thing to do,” Trump said.
“Peace is never beyond the grasp of those willing to reach it,” said the US leader, who declared that “this decision is not intended in any way to reflect a departure from our strong commitment to facilitate a lasting peace.”
“The United States would support a two-state solution if agreed to by both sides,” Trump said, as he announced that Vice President Mike Pence would travel to the region in the coming days.
Trump further stated that the United States was not taking a position on any “final status issues, including the specific boundaries of the Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem, or the resolution of contested borders.”
“Those questions are up to the parties involved.”
Here’s how the story unfolded on Wednesday:
UN Security Council to meet on Jerusalem issue
The UN Security Council will meet on Friday in emergency session to discuss the decision by US President Donald Trump to recognise occupied Jerusalem as Israel's capital, the council's leadership announced Wednesday.
The talks – requested by eight nations – will begin at 10am (7pm UAE), but there are other items on the agenda, so the occupied Jerusalem issue may not come up until the late morning, said Japan, which holds the council's rotating presidency.
Bolivia, Britain, Egypt, France, Italy, Senegal, Sweden and Uruguay requested the talks. They have also asked UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to open the meeting with remarks.
Merkel 'does not support' Trump action
German Chancellor Angela Merkel “does not support” the decision by US President Donald Trump to recognise occupied Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, her spokesman said Wednesday.
The German government “does not support this position because the status of [occupied] Jerusalem can only be negotiated within the framework of a two-state solution,” spokesman Steffen Seibert wrote on Twitter.
EU voices 'serious concern' over Trump decision
The European Union’s chief diplomat voiced “serious concern” Wednesday at US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognise occupied Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
“The aspirations of both parties must be fulfilled and a way must be found through negotiations to resolve the status of Jerusalem as the future capital of both states,” said Federica Mogherini, referring to Israelis and Palestinians.
She added that the EU’s concern was based on Trump’s announcement “and the repercussions this may have on the prospect of peace”.
US move 'unhelpful' for peace: UK's May
Prime Minister Theresa May on Wednesday said the British government disagreed with US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the Israeli capital, saying it was “unhelpful” for peace efforts.
“We disagree with the US decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem and recognise Jerusalem as the Israeli capital,” she said in a statement. “We believe it is unhelpful in terms of prospects for peace in the region”.
US to immediately start process of moving embassy: Tillerson
The State Department will immediately act on President Donald Trump’s order to relocate the American embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to occupied Jerusalem, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Wednesday.
“The State Department will immediately begin the process to implement this decision by starting the preparations to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem,” Tillerson said during a visit to Germany, shortly after Trump’s landmark announcement.
Abbas says Trump move means US withdrawal from peace process
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas US President Donald Trump’s recognition of occupied Jerusalem as capital of Israeli will not change the status of Jerusalem as an Arab Islamic and Christian city.
“Trump’s decision means Washington’s withdrawal from the Palestinian-Israeli peace process, and we will call for an emergency meeting for the Central Palestinian Council,” the Palestinian President said.
He said “we will call on all Palestinian groups to convene over the next few days to discuss the latest developments.”
Meanwhile, the Lebanese Foreign Ministry condemned Trump’s decision to relocate the US embassy in occupied Jerusalem and recognise the city as capital of Israel.
Lebanese President Michel Aoun said Trump’s decision threatens the peace process and the region’s stability.
Jordan: Trump move violates international law
Jordan condemned US President Donald Trump’s recognition on Wednesday of occupied Jerusalem as the capital of Israel as amounting to a violation of international law and the UN charter.
“The decision of the American president to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and the transfer of the US embassy to this city constitutes a violation of decisions of international law and the United Nations charter,” said government spokesman Mohammad Momani.
Trump recognises occupied Jerusalem as Israel capital
US President Donald Trump recognised occupied Jerusalem as Israel's capital on Wednesday, a historic decision that overturns decades of US policy and risks triggering a fresh spasm of violence in the Middle East.
"I have determined that it is time to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel," the US leader said in a speech from the White House.
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.
Trump's announcement plunges the United States into a decades-long dispute over a city considered holy by Jews, Muslims and Christians, and flies in the face of warnings from US allies and leaders across the Middle East.
Trump says Jerusalem move is 'long overdue'
Hours before the announcement recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital, US President Donald Trump on Thursday said that the move was "long overdue."
"Many presidents have said they want to do something and they didn't do it, whether it's courage or they changed their mind, I can't tell you," Trump said, portraying himself as daring to fulfil a promise that previous presidents have shied away from.
"I think it's long overdue," he said.
Erdogan warns US move to 'play into hands of terror groups'
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan strongly warned the United States against recognising occupied Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, saying the move would only help terrorists.
"Such a step will only play into the hands of terror groups," Erdogan said at a joint news conference in Ankara after talks with Jordan's King Abdullah II.
The Jordanian monarch, who had been personally informed by President Donald Trump of the move by telephone, also cautioned that " occupied Jerusalem is key to any peace agreement (between Israel and the Palestinians) and is key to the stability of the entire region".
Pakistan 'unequivocally opposed' to Trump's plan
Nuclear-armed Pakistan said it was "unequivocally opposed" to US President Donald Trump's expected move to recognise occupied Jerusalem as Israel's capital.
Pakistan, which does not recognise Israel, called on the US to "refrain" from the move, a statement from Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi's office said.
The change would "constitute a clear violation of international law and UN Security Council resolutions", the statement warned.
US to reveal Jerusalem as Israel capital
WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump on Wednesday will recognise occupied Jerusalem as Israel's capital and set in motion the relocation of the US Embassy to the ancient city, senior US officials said, a decision that upends decades of US policy and risks fueling violence in the Middle East.
Facing an outcry of opposition from Arab capitals, Trump, in a landmark speech, will announce he has ordered the State Department to begin developing a plan to move the embassy from Tel Aviv in what is expected to be a process that takes three to four years, the officials said. He will not set a timetable for the move.
Trump will sign a national security waiver that authorises him to delay the embassy relocation for now, since the US diplomats do not yet have a building in occupied Jerusalem to move into, security arrangements or housing for diplomats, the officials said.
Still, Trump’s endorsement of Israel's claim to all of occupied Jerusalem as its capital would reverse long-standing US policy that the city's status must be decided in negotiations with the Palestinians, who want occupied East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.
The international community does not recognise Israeli sovereignty over the entire city, home to sites holy to the Muslim, Jewish and Christian religions.
The officials, who briefed reporters ahead of Trump’s speech at 1 pm EST (10pm UAE time) on Wednesday, insisted that Trump’s decision, intended to fulfill a key campaign promise, was not meant to pre-judge the outcome of eventual talks on the final status of occupied Jerusalem or other major disputes between the two sides.
Instead, one of the officials contended that Trump’s announcements reflected the “historic reality” of occupied Jerusalem as the center of Jewish faith and the “modern reality” that it is the seat of Israeli government.
Such arguments are not likely to sway the Palestinians and the broader Arab world.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Jordan's King Abdullah, Egyptian President Abdul Fattah Al Sisi and Saudi Arabia's King Salman, who all received telephone calls from Trump on Tuesday, joined a mounting chorus of voices warning that unilateral US steps on occupied Jerusalem would derail a fledgling US-led peace effort that has stymied previous US administrations and unleash turmoil in the region.
The White House said Trump had also spoken with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a close US ally and longtime proponent of a US embassy move to occupied Jerusalem.
Netanyahu was the only leader whose office did not release a statement following the call. A senior Israeli minister welcomed Trump's decision while vowing that Israel would be prepared for any outbreak of violence.
Trump appears intent on satisfying the pro-Israel, right-wing base, including evangelical Christians, that helped him win the presidency but was disappointed when he delayed the embassy move in June. No other country has its embassy in occupied Jerusalem. Israel captured Arab East Jerusalem in the 1967 Middle East war and later annexed it, an action not recognised internationally.
But Trump’s decision could also upset the peace effort led by his son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, in pursuit of what the US president has called the “ultimate deal.”
Still, internal deliberations over the status of occupied Jerusalem were tense. Vice President Mike Pence and David Friedman, US ambassador to Israel, pushed hard for both recognition and embassy relocation, while Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis opposed the move from Tel Aviv, according to other US officials who spoke on condition of anonymity.
An impatient Trump finally weighed in, telling aides last week he wanted to keep his campaign promise.
Word of Trump’s impending announcement about occupied Jerusalem, one of the most sensitive issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, has already raised the specter of violent protest.
The State Department has ordered restrictions on the movements of its diplomats in and around parts of occupied Jerusalem and has warned US diplomatic installations across the Middle East of the potential for unrest.
“Departments and agencies have developed and implemented a robust security plan to ensure the safety of our citizens and assets in the greater Middle East,” one of the senior officials said.
Abbas warned Trump of the “dangerous consequences” that moving the embassy would have for peace efforts and regional stability, and also appealed to the pope and the leaders of Russia, France and Jordan to intervene, Abbas spokesman Nabil Abu Rdainah said.
But Trump assured Abbas that he remained committed to facilitating an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal, one US official said.
While Trump has yet to openly endorse a two-state solution to the conflict, administration officials told reporters he was prepared to do so if the two parties agree, a continued hedging on what has been a bedrock of US Middle East policy.
Saudi King Salman told Trump that any US announcement on the status of occupied Jerusalem would "inflame Muslim feelings all over the world,” the Saudi Press Agency said.