Trump accepts Jerusalem as Israel’s capital
WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump on Wednesday reversed decades of U.S. policy and recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, imperiling Middle East peace efforts and upsetting the Arab world and Western allies alike.
A step expected to take years and one that his predecessors opted not to take to avoid inflaming tensions.Trump announced his administration would begin a process of moving the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed Trump’s announcement as a “historic landmark,” but other close Western allies of Washington such as Britain and France were critical.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said the United States abdicated its role as a mediator in peace efforts, and Palestinian secular and Islamist factions called for a general strike and rallies on Thursday to protest.
The international community does not recognize Israeli sovereignty over the entire city, believing its status should be resolved in negotiations. No other country has its embassy in Jerusalem.
Trump’s decision risks further inflaming a region already grappling with conflict in Syria, Iraq and Yemen.
Protests broke out in areas of Jordan’s capital, Amman, inhabited by Palestinian refugees, and several hundred protesters gathered outside the U.S. consulate in Istanbul.
Israel considers Jerusalem its eternal and indivisible capital and wants all embassies based there. Palestinians want the capital of an independent state of theirs to be in the city’s eastern sector, which Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war and annexed in a move never recognized internationally.
Netanyahu said any peace deal with Palestinians must include Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. That would be a non-starter for Palestinians in any negotiations if it meant the entire city would be under Israeli control.
Abbas on Wednesday called the city “the eternal capital of the state of Palestine.” He said Trump’s decision was tantamount to the United States abdicating its peace mediator role. Jordan said Trump’s decision was “legally null.”
“I think it’s pretty catastrophic, frankly,” said Hussein Ibish at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington, adding that “Trump did not distinguish in any meaningful sense between West Jerusalem and occupied East Jerusalem.”
Palestinian Islamist group Hamas accused Trump of a “flagrant aggression against the Palestinian people.”
Palestinians switched off Christmas lights at Jesus’ traditional birthplace in Bethlehem on Wednesday night to protest Trump’s move.
Trump has tilted U.S. policy toward Israel since taking office in January.
Former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Daniel Kurtzer, “He cannot expect to side entirely with Israel on the most sensitive and complex issues in the process, and yet expect the Palestinians to see the United States as an honest broker.”