Published On: Thu, Dec 7th, 2017

Mix reactions trail Trump’s decision on Jerusalem

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US President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

“Today we finally acknowledge the obvious: that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital.”

By Our Correspondent with Agency reports

President of the United States of America, Donald Trump had yesterday declared Jerusalem to be the capital of Israel, upending decades of US diplomacy and threatening to spark massive unrest across the Muslim world.
Speaking in the White House’s Diplomatic Reception Room, Trump also announced his plan to eventually relocate the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and begin the difficult logistical work of building a new diplomatic facility in the disputed city.
“Israel is a sovereign nation with the right like any other sovereign nation to determine its own capital,” Trump said. “Acknowledging this is a fact is a necessary condition for achieving peace.”
Trump described Jerusalem as the capital that “the Jewish people established in ancient times,” a line that may anger those in the Arab world who minimize, or deny, that Jews have had a historic connection to the city for millennia.
In advance of the speech, however, White House officials repeatedly stressed that Trump’s announcement doesn’t represent a change US policy on the future borders of Jerusalem.
Both the Palestinians and the Israelis claim Jerusalem as their capital, and the city contains sites sacred to both Jews and Muslims. Though Israel’s parliament and the prime minister’s home are in Jerusalem, they sit in West Jerusalem, on the side of the city Israel has controlled since 1949. Israel captured East Jerusalem in 1967 and annexed that half of the city.
The international community considers East Jerusalem occupied territory. But that half of the city also contains sites holy to all three major monotheistic religions, including the Western Wall, the holiest place in the world where Jews can openly pray, and Haram al-Sharif, Arabic for “the Noble Sanctuary,” a sacred site for Muslims that Israelis refer to as the Temple Mount.

The Palestinians want to officially divide the city and make East Jerusalem the capital of a future Palestinian state. The Israelis, to put it mildly, disagree — and the right-wing government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has long made clear that it wouldn’t even consider making concessions over Jerusalem.
The decades-long political fight over the future of the city is what makes Trump’s new move so momentous — and so dangerous.
World leaders from France to Saudi Arabia to China had cautioned Trump against the decision. Pope Francis even weighed in, calling on world leaders to let “wisdom and prudence prevail” so as “to avoid adding new elements of tension.” The US Consulate in Jerusalem issued a security warning barring all US government employees and their families from traveling to Jerusalem’s Old City or the West Bank ahead of the announcement because “widespread demonstrations” were expected.
The status of Jerusalem has been a source of both division and contention for decades. During most of the 1990s — including during the creation of the Oslo peace accords between the Israelis and the Palestinians — negotiations over the final status of the city were left for the future to avoid derailing the rest of the talks.
In 2000, negotiations between then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and then-Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat reportedly came close to dividing the city between the two peoples. The Israelis would have retained control over the Western Wall, and the Palestinians would have been given control of Haram al-Sharif, the third-holiest site in Islam.
Final negotiations reportedly broke down over questions of who would control a maze of underground tunnels that run beneath Jerusalem’s Old City.
There have been no recent negotiations over the city for a simple and grim reason: Despite the official US government line, Israeli-Palestinian peace talks have been largely on hold for years, with no indications that they’ll resume anytime soon.
In the meantime, Jerusalem has retained the uniquely strange status of a city without a country. Americans born in the city must put “Jerusalem” rather than “Israel” on their passports. That’s because the nationality of the entire city remains contested, which is a source of deep fury for many Israelis and American Jews.
For years, official US policy has been support for a two-state solution, with the final status of Jerusalem to be decided as part of a peace agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Had Trump chosen to go further and declare Jerusalem to be the undivided capital of Israel, it would have sent the message that the US has taken a clear position on Jerusalem’s final status.
“No issue seems to put Arab leaders more on the defensive than Jerusalem,” Middle East experts David Makovsky and Dennis Ross wrote in advance of Trump’s speech. “Because the administration needs these leaders to play a role in any renewed peace effort, it should avoid any moves that look like Washington is preempting negotiations and adopting Israel’s position on the city.”
The immediate fury in much of the Arab world that trailed Trump’s speech yesterday was clear indication that the damage may already be done.
Palestinian leaders have already called for three “days of rage” to protest the decision, and demonstrations had already broken out in the Gaza Strip and a Palestinian refugee camp in Beirut, Lebanon.
Turkish President Recep Erdogan called Jerusalem “the red line for Muslims.”
According to many commentators in the International media, Israel’s capital might have been Jerusalem for decades but most of the rest of the world refuses to recognize that political geography — or will not, at least, until there is a viable Palestinian state living in peace and security alongside Israel. The world, in other words, has dangled recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital as a kind of peace process carrot.
The United States has, for many years now, supported this international consensus, electing to keep its embassy in Tel Aviv with almost everyone else’s. In this context, the Trump administration’s decision to transfer US diplomatic offices to Jerusalem is seen by even some Americans as a slap in the face of international public opinion. Perhaps more importantly, however, it may signal the death of the two-state solution.
According to Haroon Moghul, American commentator and author:“There are many reasons to think that’s a bad thing. For one, the Trump and Netanyahu administrations are clearly acting out of a desire to inflict further harm on the Palestinians, who have been failed by years of sclerotic, unimaginative and generally feckless leadership. Furthermore, by international law, East Jerusalem belongs to Palestine.”
“By moving to crush any lingering Palestinian hopes for a national capital in East Jerusalem, America and Israel may say they are still open to a two-state solution, but in reality they are really signaling that that the two-state solution is pretty much dead. They broadcast that the occupation of Palestinian land, and the dispossession of the Palestinian people, will (and should) be accelerated.

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