US President Donald Trump has formally recognized Jerusalem and ordered the setting up of a plan to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to the holy city for the three monotheistic religions: Islam, Christianity and Judaism.
The decision triggered a wave of condemnations worldwide and warnings that it would actually destroy all prospects of a peaceful settlement between Israelis and Palestinians.
In a speech in the White House, Trump sugarcoated the decision as the “right thing to do,” saying ironically that it is “a long overdue step to advance the peace process.”
Yet, without even mentioning it, Trump signed the same national security waiver signed by his predecessors, from Barack Obama to George W. Bush to Bill Clinton, which will allow the administration to keep the embassy in Tel Aviv for an additional six months.
Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem further isolates the US on the middle east peace process and destroys the credibility of US mediation efforts between the Israelis and Palestinians.
The decision has been met with outrage in Palestine. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas refused to acknowledge Trump’s contentious move, asserting that the city is “the eternal capital of the state of Palestine”.
“This is a reward to Israel,” Abbas said in a televised address, adding that Trump’s move encouraged Israel’s “continuing occupation” of the Palestinian territories.
In the Muslim world, leaders condemned the US decision, which is tantamount to destroying the already fragile peace process.
King Mohammed VI, Chairman of the Al-Quds (Jerusalem) committee, expressed “deep concern” regarding Trump’s decision. In a letter to the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, the King said that altering the status of Al Quds is an “Infringement of the internationally recognized legal and historical status of Jerusalem,” adding that this “runs the risk of hurling the issue into the quagmire of religious and ideological conflict.”
Other Muslim countries warned that recognizing Jerusalem as a capital of the Jewish State will trigger backlash and dire consequences on peace in the region. Jordan and Egypt, two countries maintaining diplomatic ties with Israel, voiced their outright rejection of Trump’s decision.
“Jordan stresses the need for the United States to play its role as a neutral intermediary to resolve the conflict and achieve peace on the basis of the two-state solution, which the world has agreed is the only way to resolve the conflict and achieve lasting peace,” the Jordanian spokesman said.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan used even stronger language calling the move a “red line” for Muslims, saying that Turkey will cut its ties with Israel due to Trump’s move.
The same condemnations were echoed by World leaders. Pope Francis called for the preservation of Jerusalem’s “identity” in the wake of Trump’s decision. “My thoughts go to Jerusalem and I cannot keep silent my deep concern for the situation that has been created in the past days,” the pontiff said during the weekly General Audience at the Vatican.
Federica Mogherini, vice president of the European Commission, also said the EU “expresses serious concern” while maintaining that the EU position remains unchanged in stressing that the aspirations of both parties must be fulfilled.
Secretary General António Guterres expressed alarm that the announcement would provoke new tensions in the Holy City, which is revered by Jews, Christians and Muslims.
The French, UK and German governments all joined their voice to global condemnations of Trump’s decision stressing the need for a consensual solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Jerusalem was envisaged in the 1947 UN partition plan as an “international city”. After the end of the 1949 war, Israel took the western part and Jordan the eastern part of the city. During the 1967 Six-Day War, Israel occupied East Jerusalem. Since then, the entire city has been under Israel’s authority.
In July 1980, Israel passed a law that declared Jerusalem the united capital of Israel. The United Nations Security Council responded with a resolution condemning Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem and declared it a violation of international law.
In 1995, the US Congress passed a law requiring America to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Proponents said the US should respect Israel’s choice of Jerusalem as its capital, and recognize it as such.
Every president since 1995 — Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama — has declined to move the embassy, citing national security interests. Every six months, the President has used the presidential waiver to circumvent the embassy move.