Sunday 22 April 2018

Donald Trump recognises Jerusalem as Israel's capital

Jerusalem's old city is seen as President Donald Trump said the US now recognises the holy city as Israel's capital (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)
Jerusalem's old city is seen as President Donald Trump said the US now recognises the holy city as Israel's capital (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

Donald Trump has shattered decades of unwavering US neutrality on Jerusalem by declaring the sorely divided holy city as Israel's capital.

The move sparked frustrated Palestinians to cry out that the US president had destroyed already-fragile Middle East hopes for peace.

Defying dire, worldwide warnings, Mr Trump insisted that after repeated peace failures it was time for a new approach, starting with what he said was his decision merely based on reality to recognise Jerusalem as the seat of Israel's government.

He also said the United States would move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, although he set no timetable.

"We cannot solve our problems by making the same failed assumptions and repeating the same failed strategies of the past," Mr Trump said, brushing aside the appeals for caution from around the world.

Harsh objections came from a wide array of presidents and prime ministers.

From the Middle East to Europe and beyond, leaders cautioned Mr Trump that any sudden change on an issue as sensitive as Jerusalem not only risks blowing up the new Arab-Israeli peace initiative led by Mr Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner, but could lead to new violence in the region.

No government beyond Israel spoke up in praise of Mr Trump or suggested it would follow his lead.

Israelis and Palestinians reacted in starkly different terms.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed Mr Trump's announcement as an "important step towards peace", and Israeli opposition leaders echoed his praise.

However, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Mr Trump's shift serves extremist groups that want religious war and signals US withdrawal from being a peace mediator.

Protesters in Gaza burned American and Israeli flags.

Mr Trump's declaration of Jerusalem as Israel's capital is a powerfully symbolic statement about a city that houses many of the world's holiest sites.

He cited several: the Western Wall that surrounded the Jews' ancient Temple, the Stations of the Cross that depict Jesus along his crucifixion path, and the Al-Aqsa Mosque where Muslims say their Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven.

And there are major ramifications over who should control the territory.

The United States has never endorsed the Jewish state's claim of sovereignty over any part of Jerusalem and has seen the city's future as indelibly linked to the "deal of the century" between Israel and the Palestinians that Mr Trump believes he can reach.

Beyond Mr Kushner, Mr Trump has dispatched other top emissaries to the region in recent months in hopes of advancing new negotiations.

Mr Trump said he was not delivering any verdict about where an Israeli-Palestinian border should lie.

Instead, he described his Jerusalem declaration as recognising the reality that most of Israel's government already operates from the city, and he suggested the US ally should be rewarded for creating a successful democracy where "people of all faiths are free to live and worship".

"Today we finally acknowledge the obvious," he said, emphasising that he would not follow past presidents who tiptoed around Jerusalem out of diplomatic caution.

US embassies and consulates around the world were put on high alert.

Across the Middle East and Europe, they issued warnings to Americans to watch out for violent protests.

In Jordan, home to a large Palestinian population, the US said it would close its embassy to the public on Thursday and urged children of diplomats there to stay home from school.

AP

Press Association

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