WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump on Wednesday recognized the disputed city of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital — 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,” Trump said from the White House.
“It’s the right thing to do.”
The declaration calls into question seven decades of deliberate diplomatic ambiguity about the final status of a holy city vociferously claimed by both Israelis and Palestinians.
“I have determined that it is time to officially recognize Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel.” @POTUS
— Sarah Sanders (@PressSec) December 6, 2017
Trump also kicked off the process of moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, making good on a campaign promise dear to evangelical Christian and right wing Jewish voters — as well as donors.
He said his decision marked the start of a “new approach” to solving the thorny conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.
Trump’s predecessors — from Bill Clinton to George Bush — made similar promises on the campaign trail, but quickly reneged upon taking office, and the burden of war and peace.
This most unlikely of presidents, who came to office with no foreign policy experience and denouncing experts, was determined to show his arrival in Washington spells the end of business as usual.
“Many presidents have said they want to do something and they didn’t do it,” Trump said in the hours leading up to his historic address.
“Whether it’s courage or they changed their mind, I can’t tell you,” he said. “I think it’s long overdue.”
The announcement leaves many angry US allies and leaders across the Middle East trying to find a measured response and hoping that the tinderbox region is not destined for yet another round of bloodletting.
Pope Francis joined a list of leaders warning of an historic misstep that could trigger a surge of violence.
“I cannot silence my deep concern over the situation that has emerged in recent days,” the pontiff said Wednesday, one day after speaking by phone with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas.
The pontiff added that maintaining Jerusalem’s status quo was important “in order to avoid adding new elements of tension to an already volatile world that is wracked by so many cruel conflicts.”
In a frantic series of calls, the leaders of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, the European Union, France, Germany and Turkey also warned Trump against the move.
NETANYAHU THANKS TRUMP
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked Trump for what he termed a “historic decision” to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
“The Jewish people and the Jewish state will be forever grateful,” Netanyahu said in a video statement.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: @POTUS Trump, thank you for today’s historic decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The Jewish people and the Jewish state will be forever grateful. pic.twitter.com/Z24lSRezYm
— PM of Israel (@IsraeliPM) December 6, 2017
Hamas says Trump’s decision opens ‘gates of hell’
Hamas said President Donald Trump’s decision on Wednesday to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital 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 that runs the Gaza Strip, told journalists after Trump’s announcement.
He called on Arab and Islamic states to “cut off economic and political ties with the US embassy and expel American ambassadors to cripple” this decision.
PLO says Trump declaration destroys two-state solution
The secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organisation said US President Donald Trump’s decision destroys any hopes for a two-state solution to the conflict.
“He destroyed the two-state solution,” Saeb Erekat, who long served as the Palestinians top negotiator, told journalists after Trump’s speech.
Trump “disqualified his country from any role whatsoever” in the peace process, he said.
“As a chief Palestinian negotiator, how can I sit with these people if they dictate on me the future of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital,” he added.
Erekat warned that “it is really throwing the whole region into chaos, international chaos.”
The two-state solution has long been the basis of international peace efforts for the conflict.