Thu, 15 Nov 2018

Trump says U.S. will recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital

By Sheetal Sukhija, Bahrain News
06 Dec 2017, 08:13 GMT+10

WASHINGTON, U.S. - Middle East leaders have reportedly been informed by U.S. President Donald Trump about his decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital.

The move that is said to caused alarm in the Middle East, with leaders in the region confirming that Trump had communicated his decision to them.

On Tuesday, President Trump reportedly told Israeli and Arab leaders that he plans to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Even though U.S. officials have said that such a move could not occur immediately for logistical reasons, given the lack of facilities to house the embassy staff - the move is set to upend decades of American policy and upset efforts to broker peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

Trump is therefore expected to sign a national security waiver that would authorize the administration to keep it in Tel Aviv for an additional six months.

The announcement will be made public by Trump on Wednesday, two days after the expiration of a deadline for him to decide whether to keep the American Embassy in Tel Aviv.

In a statement on Tuesday, Palestinian officials said Trump told the president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, that the U.S. would move the embassy to Jerusalem. 

Officials in Jordan too said the U.S. president gave a similar message to King Abdullah II.

Experts believe that Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital is his riskiest foray yet into the thicket of Middle East diplomacy. 

According to Arab and European leaders, the move could derail any peace initiative and even ignite fresh violence in the region.

According to a statement from the royal palace in Amman, King Abdullah II had strongly cautioned against the move, “stressing that Jerusalem is the key to achieving peace and stability in the region and the world.”

The statement said, “King Abdullah stressed that the adoption of this resolution will have serious implications for security and stability in the Middle East, and will undermine the efforts of the American administration to resume the peace process and fuel the feelings of Muslims and Christians.”

While a PLO spokesman did not reveal too many details of the conversation between Trump and Abbas - he said that the call had given shape to the worst fears of Palestinians.

Palestinians feared that the United States would break with decades of practice and longstanding international consensus by recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

The Palestinians hope to make East Jerusalem the city of great religious significance to Jews, Christians and Muslims as the capital of a Palestinian state.

The spokesman, Xavier Abu Eid said, “It’s very serious. Things look very bad.”

Abbas’s spokesman, Nabil Abu Rudeineh was quoted as saying in the Palestinian news agency, WAFA that Abbas will continue his contacts with world leaders to prevent such “unacceptable action.”

Reports noted that King Abdullah also spoke with Abbas, assuring him of Jordan’s support for the Palestinians “in preserving their historic rights in Jerusalem and the need to work together to confront the consequences of this decision.”

Meanwhile, officials said that Trump assured Abbas that the administration would protect Palestinian interests in any peace negotiation with Israel. 

He is also said to have invited the Palestinian leader to visit him in Washington for further consultations.

Trump’s phone calls with Arab leaders was aimed at making the case that settling the question of the American Embassy could actually hasten the peace process by removing a thorny political issue that recurs every six months.

During his 2016 campaign, Trump promised to move the embassy and his pledge was extremely popular with evangelicals and pro-Israel backers. 

In June, they expressed frustration when Trump signed the waiver, keeping the embassy in Tel Aviv.

According to Middle East experts, the administration’s argument that it could not move the embassy immediately made little sense, since all that is required is to place a sign on the existing American consulate, declaring it the embassy.

While Israel houses its parliament, president, prime minister and most ministries in Jerusalem, Israelis overwhelmingly want the world to acknowledge the Holy City as their seat of government.

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