Thursday, December 07, 2017
US President Donald Trump recognised Wednesday the disputed city of Jerusalem as Israel's capital — a historic decision that overturns decades of American policy and risks triggering a fresh wave of violence in the Middle East.
Prior to Trump's announcement, Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas said Tuesday if the American head of state goes ahead and recognises the holy city as Israel's capital, he will break with the decades-long strategic policy with the US as well as the international consensus on the city.
Abbas delivered a televised speech in response to Washington's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Israel hailed Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as its capital on Wednesday, but the Palestinians condemned the move, saying it diminished Washington’s role as a peace mediator.
In a pre-recorded video message, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Trump’s decision had made for a “historic day” and was “an important step toward peace”.
Netanyahu added that any peace deal with the Palestinians would have to include Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and he urged other countries to follow the US lead by also moving their embassies to the city.
He said there would be no change to access to Jerusalem’s holy sites.
“Israel will always ensure freedom of worship for Jews, Christians, and Muslims alike.”
Israel views the city as its undivided capital, with a statement Tuesday saying it "is the capital of the Jewish people for 3,000 years and Israel's capital since 70 years".
But Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Trump’s move was “tantamount to the United States abdicating its role as a peace mediator” and declared Jerusalem as the “eternal capital of the State of Palestine”.
“With this announcement, the American administration has chosen to violate all international and bilateral agreements and resolutions and it has chosen to violate international consensus,” Abbas said.
The move, he said, would serve “the extremist groups which try to turn the conflict in our region into a religious war that will drag the region... into international conflicts and endless wars.”
Earlier, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat said moving the US Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to the holy city can take “two minutes”, as the US would only have to convert one of its existing assets in the city, such as its consulate located in West Jerusalem.
“They just take the symbol of the consulate and switch it to the embassy symbol — two American Marines can do it in two minutes, and give the ambassador David Friedman a space to sit in,” Barkat told Israel Radio.
“The implementation of this decision is immediate and then later slowly start moving the employees in a more structured manner to begin providing services in Jerusalem,” Barkat said.
The internationally-recognised Palestinian government sees the eastern part as the capital of their future state. Hamas — which controls Gaza and does not recognise Israel — calls Jerusalem the Palestinian capital.
In 1995, the US Congress passed the Jerusalem Embassy Act, calling on the US to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and recognise it as Israel's capital.
The law is binding on the US government but a clause allowed presidents to postpone its application for six months on "national security interests".
Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama re-ratified the clause every six months.
Trump reluctantly renewed it for the first time in June 2017, despite promising during his campaign to move the embassy.
Trump, however, on Wednesday, recognised the disputed city of Jerusalem as Israel's capital — a historic decision that immediately caused ripples around the world.
All foreign leaders Trump had spoken to about the Jerusalem decision wanted him to remain engaged in the peace process, senior US administration officials said.
Here is what nations around the world are saying about Trump's risky move:
Pakistan: 'Unequivocally opposed'
Pakistan said it was "unequivocally opposed" to Trump's expected move, with the world's second most populous Muslim country joining a global chorus of alarm.
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.
"It would also sidestep decades of global consensus on this issue, undermine regional peace and security as well as derail any prospects for a lasting peace in the Middle East," it added.
Speaking over the matter, former prime minister expressed his “shock” and “deep disappointment” over the issue.
“This action is a violation of international laws, dozens of the resolutions of UN Security Council and UN General Assembly as well as the publicly stated policy of all earlier US Presidents. This is a serious setback to the rule of law and international norms,” he said.
“To hand over the holy city of Jerusalem, known historically for over millenniums as Al Quds Al Sharif, is to add salt to the wounds of the people who have been suffering untold miseries for 70 years.”
US’s blatantly illegal and immoral action will deepen hatred and animosity, he added.
Turkey’s foreign ministry on Wednesday condemned the US' decision as “irresponsible” and called on Washington to reconsider the move.
Several hundred protesters gathered outside the US consulate in Istanbul, a Reuters cameraman at the scene said. The protest was largely peaceful, although some of the demonstrators threw coins and other objects at the consulate.
“We condemn the irresponsible statement of the US administration... declaring that it recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and it will be moving the US Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.
“We call upon the US Administration to reconsider this faulty decision, which may result in highly negative outcomes, and to avoid uncalculated steps that will harm the multicultural identity and historical status of Jerusalem,” it said.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called for a summit of the main pan-Islamic body in Istanbul on December 13 to discuss the issue.
He also reaffirmed Pakistan's solidarity with the Palestinian people and renewed Islamabad's call for the establishment of a Palestinian state "with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital", using the Arabic term for the city.
Egypt refused to accept Trump's decision, the foreign ministry said Wednesday, adding that his recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital did not change the city’s legal status.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi also received a phone call from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to discuss the repercussions of the US decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem, a statement from the Egyptian presidency said on Wednesday.
Sisi expressed Egypt’s rejection of the move and of “any implications resulting from it”, the statement said.
Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun said Wednesday Trump’s Jerusalem decision was dangerous and threatened the credibility of the US as a broker of the peace process in the region.
He said the decision had put back the peace process by decades, threatening regional stability and perhaps global one as well.
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.
Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah — the leader of Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement — will speak on Thursday about the issue of Jerusalem, the Hezbollah-affiliated al-Manar TV station reported.
Qatar’s foreign minister said Wednesday Trump’s decision was a death sentence for all who seek peace, Qatari-owned Al Jazeera television reported.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani called the move “a dangerous escalation”.
Qatar’s foreign ministry said earlier on Twitter that Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani had warned of serious implications from the decision in a telephone conversation with Trump.
Morocco summoned the US charge d‘affaires to express its deep concern over the US decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, state news agency MAP said on Wednesday.
Morocco’s foreign minister “reiterated the constant support and full solidarity of the Kingdom of Morocco towards the Palestinian people so that they can recover their legitimate rights,” a statement carried by MAP said.
Jordan rejected on Wednesday the US decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel saying it was “legally null” because it consolidated Israel’s occupation of the eastern sector of the contested city in the 1967 war.
The announcement by US President Donald Trump violated past U.N. Security Council resolutions that “stipulated the non-recognition of the Israeli occupation” of the West Bank and the eastern sector of the city, government spokesperson Mohammad al-Momani told state news agency Petra.
The kingdom also considered “all unilateral moves that sought to create new facts on the ground as null and void”, the government spokesman added.
The Palestinian cause will stay alive among Arabs until the establishment of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital, the Syrian president’s office said on Wednesday in response to US President Donald Trump’s Jerusalem decision.
“The future of Jerusalem is not determined by a state or a president but is determined by its history and by the will and determination in the Palestinian cause,” President Bashar al-Assad’s office said on an official social media feed.
"This is a dangerous initiative by the US administration that clearly exemplifies the United States' contempt for international law," a foreign ministry official quoted by the official SANA news agency said.
"Syria condemns in the strongest possible terms the US president's move to transfer the US embassy to occupied Jerusalem and recognize Jerusalem as the capital of the Israeli occupation," the foreign ministry said.
The foreign ministry official quoted by the state news agency pointed a finger at Saudi Arabia, whose relations with Iran and the Syrian regime are more strained than ever.
"The US president and his regional allies will bear responsibility for this decision's dangerous consequences," the official said.
Iran “seriously condemns” the US decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem and its recognition of the city as Israel’s capital, read a statement on Wednesday from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs carried by state media.
The move violates international resolutions, the statement said.
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said earlier the US was trying to destabilize the region and start a war to protect Israel’s security.
The US action will “incite Muslims and inflame a new intifada and encourage extremism and violent behavior for which the responsibility will lie with (the United States)”, the foreign ministry statement said.
“The Islamic Republic of Iran has reiterated that the most important reason for the falling apart of stability and security in the Middle East is the continued occupation and the biased and unequivocal support of the American government,” the statement said.
“And the deprivation of the oppressed Palestinian people from their primary rights in forming an independent Palestinian government with the noble Quds as its capital,” it said.
Iraq is opposed to the US' decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moving its embassy there, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said Tuesday, warning that such a decision would negatively affect Middle East stability.
“The Iraqi government received this news with the utmost worry and warns about this decision’s ramifications on the stability of the region and the world,” the Iraqi cabinet said in a statement.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Wednesday it would be a “grave mistake” for the US to move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem and that he had warned US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
Before a bilateral meeting with Tillerson at NATO headquarters, Cavusoglu said: “It would be a grave mistake (to move the US embassy). It will not bring any stability ... but rather chaos and instability.”
“The whole world is against this,” he said, adding that he had already told Tillerson how he felt and would reiterate it at the meeting at NATO during the alliance’s foreign ministers’ meeting.
The position of most of the international community has been largely unchanged for decades.
Essentially, Jerusalem is viewed as an issue for final-status negotiations between the two sides. The United Nations' statements, however, suggest that the city could remain the capital of both Israel and a future Palestinian state in any deal.
The vast majority of countries have largely followed this line. All embassies are based in the commercial capital Tel Aviv, but most countries simply do not specify what they consider to be Israel's capital.
Thirteen countries did have embassies in Jerusalem until 1980 when a UN resolution called upon them to remove that status.
Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, the Netherlands, Panama, Uruguay, and Venezuela subsequently shifted their embassies.
The European Union (EU) and the United Nations (UN) also voiced alarm at Trump’s decision and its repercussions for any chances of reviving Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said 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,” Guterres said.
“I will do everything in my power to support the Israeli and Palestinian leaders to return to meaningful negotiations.”
Other major US allies came out against Trump’s reversal of decades of US and international policy on Jerusalem.
The EU also expressed serious concern, saying it could have repercussions for peace prospects.
“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,” EU Foreign Affairs Chief Federica Mogherini said in a statement.
British Prime Minister Theresa May disagrees with the US decision because it is unlikely to help efforts to bring peace to the region, her spokesman said on Wednesday.
Jerusalem should ultimately be shared between Israel and a future Palestinian state, the spokesman said.
“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.”
May’s spokesman welcomed Trump’s desire to end the conflict and his acknowledgement that the final status of Jerusalem, including boundaries within the city, must be subject to negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians.
“We encourage the US Administration to now bring forward detailed proposals for an Israel-Palestinian settlement,” he said.
Germany does not support the Trump administration’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Wednesday.
“The German government does not support this position because the status of Jerusalem is to be resolved in the framework of a two-state solution,” she was quoted as saying in a tweet by the government spokesman.
Trump is undermining international stability with his decision, the leader of Germany’s Social Democrats (SPD) said on Wednesday.
Affirming his support for a two-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians, Martin Schulz said Trump’s decision, taken despite warnings from a wide range of US allies, risked setting back the peace process in the Middle East.
Trump is due to announce later on Wednesday that the United States recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and will move its embassy there, breaking with longtime US policy and possibly stirring unrest.
The state of Jerusalem can be resolved "only as part of a general settlement of the Palestinian-Israeli dispute", the Canadian Minister for Foreign Affairs said.
Mexico’s foreign ministry said on Wednesday that it will keep its Israeli embassy in Tel Aviv, following Trump’s move.
Mexico will continue to adhere to UN resolutions recognizing the status of Jerusalem, the foreign ministry said in a statement.
“Mexico will continue to maintain a close and friendly bilateral relationship with the state of Israel, as evidenced by the recent visit of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to our country, and will also continue supporting the historical claims of the Palestinian people,” the statement read.
China expressed concern on Wednesday about Trump’s intention to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and relocate the US Embassy to the ancient city, saying it could spark new hostility.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a regular news briefing that the status of Jerusalem was a complicated and sensitive issue and China was concerned the US decision “could sharpen regional conflict”.
“All parties should do more for the peace and tranquillity of the region, behave cautiously, and avoid impacting the foundation for resolving the long-standing Palestine issue and initiating new hostility in the region,” Geng said.
China has long maintained that Palestinians must be allowed to build an independent state, although it has traditionally played little role in Middle East conflicts or diplomacy, despite its reliance on the region for oil.
The Kremlin said on Wednesday that Russia was concerned that the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian authorities could be aggravated further by Trump’s plans.
“However, we would not discuss the decisions which have not been taken yet,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told a conference call with reporters.
Earlier this year, Israeli media trumpeted a statement by the Russian government that — for the first time — specifically said, "We view West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel".
This appeared to be a shift in policy position and was hailed by some Israeli politicians, though it had little practical implication.
The statement also recognised "east Jerusalem as the capital of the future Palestinian state".
French President Emmanuel Macron said on Wednesday he did not support Trump’s “unilateral” decision 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 U.N. 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.
Macron — who has developed a good working relationship with Trump since taking office in May — spoke to the US leader earlier this week to try to convince him to change his mind.
“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.
Bolivia plans to ask for a public meeting of the United Nations Security Council after Trump's announcement.
Bolivian U.N. Ambassador Sacha Sergio Llorentty Soliz said it would be a “reckless and a dangerous decision that goes against international law, the resolutions of the Security Council, it also weakens any effort for peace in the region and also upsets the whole region.”
A meeting of the 15-member council cannot be scheduled until Bolivia formally requests one. It was not immediately clear when such a meeting could be held.
Pope Francis, speaking hours before Trump’s announcement on Jerusalem, called on Wednesday for the city’s “status quo” to be respected, saying new tension in the Middle East would further inflame world conflicts.
In an appeal at the end of his weekly general audience, Francis called for all to honour United Nations resolutions on the city, which is sacred to Jews, Christians, and Muslims.
“I make a heartfelt appeal so that all commit themselves to respecting the status quo of the city, in conformity with the pertinent resolutions of the United Nations,” he said.
The Vatican backs a two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, with both sides agreeing on the status of Jerusalem as part of the peace process.
The pope told thousands of people at his general audience, “I cannot keep quiet about my deep worry about the situation that has been created in the last few days.”
He said he hoped “wisdom and prudence prevail, in order to avoid adding new elements of tension to a global panorama that is already convulsed and marked by so many and cruel conflicts”.
In 2012, the Vatican called for “an internationally guaranteed special statute” for Jerusalem, aimed at “safeguarding the freedom of religion and of conscience, the identity and sacred character of Jerusalem as a Holy City, (and) respect for, and freedom of, access to its holy places.”
Before making his public comments, Francis met privately with a group of Palestinians involved in inter-religious dialogue with the Vatican.
“The Holy Land is for us Christians the land par excellence of dialogue between God and mankind,” he said. He spoke of dialogue between religions “and also in civil society”.
“The primary condition of that dialogue is reciprocal respect and a commitment to strengthening that respect, for the sake of recognizing the rights of all people, wherever they happen to be,” he said to the group.
The pope spoke by telephone to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas about the crisis on Tuesday.
The Vatican and Israel established full diplomatic relations in 1994. Francis, former Pope Benedict and Pope John Paul II all visited Israel and Palestinian territories.
When Francis visited the Holy Land in 2014, he flew directly by helicopter from Jordan to what the Vatican program called the “State of Palestine” and visited Israel last.
This irked Israel because his predecessor had always gone first to Israel and entered the territories from Israel.
The Vatican signed its first treaty with the “State of Palestine” the following year.
The Arab League is to hold an emergency meeting on Saturday on US plans to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, the head of the Palestinian delegation to the body said on Wednesday.
The Palestinians and Jordan had requested the meeting which will take place at 3 p.m. (1300 GMT), Ambassador Diab al-Louh told Reuters by phone.
The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) will meet in Istanbul on December 13 to coordinate a response to the United States' decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan's spokesman said on Wednesday.
Ibrahim Kalin made the comment at a news conference in Ankara.
Saudi Arabia’s King Salman discussed the “most prominent developments” in the region in a telephone call from the Turkish president, the Saudi state news agency reported, after Trump announced the US Embassy in Israel would be moved to Jerusalem.
The agency gave no further details on the discussions.
Saudi Arabia — home to Islam’s holiest sites — and regional Muslim power Turkey have both warned against any attempt to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital or move the embassy to the city.
In 1947, the United Nations devised a plan to divide British mandate Palestine into three entities: a Jewish state, an Arab state, and Jerusalem — the third of which would have a unique status as an "internationally-controlled city".
The Jewish leaders accepted the plan, but the Arab world rejected it.
Following the British withdrawal next year, a war broke out wherein Israel seized the west of the city, while Jordanians and Palestinians took the east.
In the next conflict, in 1967, Israel seized control of east Jerusalem and later annexed it, in moves never recognised by the international community.
The predominantly Palestinian population in the east lives under full Israeli control but cannot vote in parliamentary elections.