Friday 20 July 2018

World leaders slam Jerusalem decision

Palestinians burn posters depicting Donald Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu during a protest in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. Photo: Reuters
Palestinians burn posters depicting Donald Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu during a protest in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. Photo: Reuters

Raf Sanchez and Nick Allen Jerusalem

Donald Trump said he was casting aside the "failed strategies of the past" last night as he upended 70 years of US foreign policy and forged ahead with his controversial decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

The US president's announcement was celebrated by Israel but met with fury from Palestinians, who accused him of destroying any hope of a peace deal. "We cannot solve our problems by making the same failed assumptions and repeating the same failed strategies of the past," Mr Trump said. "It is time to officially recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel." Defying warnings from world leaders, Mr Trump said he "judged this course of action to be in the best interest of the US and the pursuit of peace between Israel and the Palestinians".

He said that America would become the only country in the world to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, making good on a campaign promise important to many evangelical Christian and right-wing Jewish voters.

The Palestinians insist that there can be no peace deal unless they are able to have East Jerusalem as the capital of their own independent state and said Mr Trump's unilateral move had disqualified the US as peace broker.

WInset: Donald Trump displays an executive order after his announcement.
WInset: Donald Trump displays an executive order after his announcement.

"These condemned and unacceptable measures are a deliberate undermining of all efforts exerted to achieve peace and represent a declaration of the United States's withdrawal from undertaking the role it has played over the past decades in sponsoring the peace process," said Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president.

Hamas, the Palestinian militant Islamist group, which controls the Gaza strip, accused Mr Trump of "flagrant aggression" and called for Muslims across the Middle East to rise up against US interests. US embassies across the Middle East bolstered their security arrangements last night in anticipation of potentially violent protests.

The decision was hailed by Israel, and Jerusalem's mayor ordered the US flag to be beamed in lights against the walls of the Old City in celebration.

"This is a historic day," said Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel's prime minister. "We are profoundly grateful to the president for his courageous and just decision."

Mr Trump (below) tried to placate Palestinian anger by saying his decision did not rule out the possibility of a two-state solution, where Jerusalem would be the capital of both Israel and an independent Palestinian state.

"We are not taking a position of any final status issues including the specific boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem or the resolution of contested issues," Mr Trump said. "The US would support a two-state solution if agreed to by both sides." He called "for calm, for moderation, and for the voices of tolerance to prevail".

Benjamin Netanyahu
Benjamin Netanyahu

With Mike Pence, the US vice president, standing by his side, Mr Trump reminded US voters that both Bill Clinton and George W Bush had promised to move the US embassy to Jerusalem but had reneged once in office.

"They failed to deliver. Today, I am delivering," he said.

British Prime Minister Theresa May was among world leaders who expressed concern about the move. "We disagree with the US decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem and recognise Jerusalem as the Israeli capital before a final status agreement. We believe it is unhelpful in terms of prospects for peace.

"The British embassy is based in Tel Aviv and we have no plans to move it," she said.

The Pope earlier said he had "deep concern" about the situation in Jerusalem and urged Mr Trump not to move ahead.

"I make a heartfelt appeal so that all commit themselves to respecting the status quo of the city, in conformity with the pertinent resolutions of the UN," he said. Reaction was muted from most of America's Arab allies, many of whom have either official or covert relationships with Israel.

But reaction was fierce from Turkey. Bekir Bozdag, the deputy prime minister, warned that Mr Trump was "plunging the region and the world into a fire with no end in sight".

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, its president, called for a summit of Muslim leaders next week in Istanbul to discuss the situation.

Irish Independent

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