A defiant President Donald Trump has abruptly broken with decades of US foreign policy and officially recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, in a move that sparked protests across the region and led to condemnation from around the globe.
Mr Trump also instructed his State Department to begin the years-long process of moving the American embassy from Tel Aviv to the holy city, calling the twin move “a step to advance the peace process” between Israel and the Palestinians.
While Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu praised Mr Trump’s announcement as an “historic landmark”, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said that with the move, the US was making a “declaration of withdrawal” from its mediation role during the peace process.
Palestinian militant organisation Hamas called for “day of rage” protests over the announcement and said that President Trump had committed a “flagrant aggression against the Palestinian people”.
“The issue of Jerusalem is the issue of the Palestinian people and the cause of the nation,” Ismail Haniya, the leader of Hamas, told Al Jazeera. “We think this is an unaccountable gamble and an adventure that will not have a ceiling. The decision will be the beginning of a time of horrific transformations across the region.”
Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat said Trump “just destroyed any policy of a two-state solution”, while leaders from the region and beyond fretted about what the move would mean for the chances of a deal.
Speaking in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House, Mr Trump said the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital was was “nothing more, or less, than a recognition of reality”. He noted that almost all of Israel’s government agencies and parliament were in Jerusalem, rather than Tel Aviv, where the US and other countries maintain embassies.
“Israel is a sovereign nation with the right like every other sovereign nation to determine its own capital,” the president said.
Both Mr Netanyahu, who encouraged more nations to follow Mr Trump’s lead and move their embassies from Tel Aviv, and Mr Abbas made clear that they both see Jerusalem as their capital. The Palestinians see East Jerusalem, captured by Israel in 1967, as part of any future state. The US has previously held that the status of Jerusalem should be decided by negotiations between the two sides.
In an apparent concession to the trouble the announcement would cause, Mr Trump reaffirmed his administration’s commitment to a peace initiative in the region, saying that the US “would support a two-state solution if agreed to by both sides”.
“This decision is not intended, in any way, to reflect a departure from our strong commitment to facilitate a lasting peace agreement,” he said. “We want an agreement that is a great deal for the Israelis and a great deal for the Palestinians.
“I’ve judged this course of action to be in the best interests of the United States of America and the pursuit of peace between Israel and the Palestinians. This is a long-overdue step to advance the peace process and to work towards a lasting agreement.”
via The Independent