Breaking from decades of U.S. policy Wednesday, President Trump extended recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel which will trigger a move of the U.S. embassy to the holy city.
Declaring he was “acknowledging the obvious” in remarks delivered from the White House, Trump stated:
“This is a long-overdue step to advance the peace process and to work towards a lasting agreement. Israel is a sovereign nation with the right like every other sovereign nation to determine its own capital. Acknowledging this as a fact is a necessary condition for achieving peace.”
Although declining to endorse a two-state solution prior to Wednesday’s announcement, the president expressed approval for a peace proposal including a separate state for Palestinians.
In accordance with his announcement, Trump ordered the State Department to being the move to shift diplomatic operations from Tel Aviv to a permanent facility in Jerusalem.
A move which was expected over the past several days, the announcement drew praise from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but also drew sharp rebukes.
British Prime Minister Theresa May called the move to Jerusalem “unhelpful” in solving problems in the Middle East; French President Emmanuel Macron described it as a “regrettable decision;” and the United Nations announced it would hold an emergency meeting over the matter.
Leaders of other Muslim majority countries also lambasted Trump’s decision, including Turkey, Pakistan, Iraq, Jordan and Malaysia. In a video statement released from the office of Saeb Erekat, the long-time Palestinian negotiator said:
“This step is prejudging, dictating, closing doors for negotiation, and I think President Trump disqualified America from playing any role in the peace process.”
In a grim reply to Trump’s notification to move the U.S. embassy, Islamic fundamentalist group Hamas called on Palestinians to stage a general uprising to protest the move. Protesters and Israeli troops clashed in several spots in both the West Bank and in Gaza following the mid-day announcement from Washington.
“Palestine will not be divided and the whole of Palestine and the whole of Jerusalem are the property of the Palestinian people,” said Ismail Haniyeh, former Palestinian prime minister. “(Trump’s announcement) is a declaration of war against our Palestinian people in their holiest of holy places of the Christians and Muslims.”
Long a matter of controversy, the 1995 Jerusalem Embassy Act provides for the U.S. diplomatic headquarters in Israel to be relocated from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem no later than May 31, 1999. Successive presidents signed waivers postponing the move, often invoking security concerns.
[Roll Call] [Harretz] [Reuters] [CNN] [Photo courtesy Lonely Planet]