Moving US embassy from Tel Aviv ‘to take years’
America’s mediator role in Mideast jeopardised
Turkey slams announcement as irresponsible, illegal
President Macron brands decision as ‘regrettable’
Pope Francis calls for city’s status quo to be respected
US President Donald Trump abruptly reversed decades of US policy yesterday and recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, generating worldwide outrage, particularly from Palestinians and Muslim countries.
Trump said in a speech in the White House that his administration would begin a process of moving the US embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a step expected to take years and one that his predecessors avoided so as not to inflame tensions.
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.
The international community does not recognise Israeli sovereignty over the entire city, believing its status should be resolved in negotiations.
“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’s decision jeopardises the United States’ historical role as a mediator in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and frays relations with Arab allies.
Israel considers the city its eternal and indivisible capital and wants all embassies based there. 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 illegally occupied in a move never recognised 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.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called the city “the eternal capital of the state of Palestine”. Abbas said Trump’s decision was tantamount to the United States abdicating its peace mediator role.
Palestinians say Trump’s move will mean the “kiss of death” to the two-state solution.
No other country has its embassy in Jerusalem. Two small Latin American states, El Salvador and Costa Rica, previously had embassies in Jerusalem before shifting them to Tel Aviv in 2006, saying they wanted to abide with international norms.
Trump has tilted US policy toward Israel since taking office in January, considering it a strong ally.
His decision on Jerusalem fulfils a campaign promise and will please Republican conservatives and evangelicals who make up a sizeable portion of his base of support.
Otherwise, the political benefits for him are unclear.
“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,” said former US ambassador to Israel Daniel Kurtzer.
“His stated desire for doing the ‘ultimate deal’ is now a casualty of his own policy naivete,” Kurtzer said.
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.
Several hundred protesters gathered outside the US consulate in Istanbul over Trump’s decision.
French President Emmanuel Macron branded the decision from Trump as “regrettable” and called for efforts to “avoid violence at all costs”. Macron affirmed “the attachment of France and Europe to the two-state solution, Israel and Palestine living side by side in peace and security within internationally recognised borders, with Jerusalem as the capital of the two states.”
UN chief Antonio Guterres said there was no alternative to the two-state solution, “There is no Plan B.”
Trump said his move is not intended to tip the scale in favour of Israel and that any deal involving the future of Jerusalem would have to be negotiated by the parties.
Seeking to soften the blow of his announcement to the Palestinians, he insisted he 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.”
The president called on the region to take his message calmly.
“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 co-operation,” Trump said. From Page 1
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.
Trump ordered a delay to any embassy move from Tel Aviv since the United States does not have an embassy in Jerusalem to move into. A senior administration official said it could take three to four years to build one.
Trump’s decision has drawn sharp criticism, with the significant exception of Israel.
Here are key reactions from around the world:
The secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organisation said Trump had destroyed any hopes for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “He destroyed the two-state solution,” Saeb Erekat, who long served as the Palestinians top negotiator, told journalists.
Hamas said Trump’s decision would “open the gates of hell” on US interests in the region. “This decision will open the gates of hell on US interests in the region,” Ismail Radwan, an official with the Palestinian Islamist movement in the Gaza Strip, told journalists.
Jordan condemned Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem 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 Mohamed Momani.
Turkey slammed Trump’s Jerusalem announcement as irresponsible and illegal. “We condemn the irresponsible statement of the US administration... the decision is against international law and relevant UN resolutions,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu wrote on Twitter.
Prime Minister Theresa May said the British government disagreed with Trump’s decision, 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”.
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