What does USA recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital mean?

Thursday, 07 Dec, 2017

What we're hearing: Trump believes that even if other world leaders don't like the decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and start the process of moving the USA embassy to the city, they will nevertheless respect him for doing what he said he would do.

Although welcomed by Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a "courageous and just decision", Trump's move also left the already faltering peace process in deep doubt.

Even before White House officials confirmed on Tuesday that Mr. Trump would make the announcement - recognizing Jerusalem, which both Israelis and Palestinians claim as their rightful capital, as the capital of the Jewish state - there were concerns of a violent response.

Trump reversed decades of United States policy in recognising Jerusalem as Israel's capital in defiance of warnings from around the world that the gesture risks creating aggravating conflict in a chronically volatile Middle East. Jerusalem has been the focus of our hopes, our dreams, our prayers for three millennia.

Plunging further into a decades-long dispute over a city considered holy by Jews, Muslims and Christians, Trump will also order to begin planning to move the United States embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

In 1995, the US Congress passed the Jerusalem Embassy Act calling on the United States to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, recognising it as Israel's capital.

Egypt, which forged the first Arab peace deal with Israel in 1979, rejected Trump's decision and said it did not change Jerusalem's disputed legal status. Trump will still sign the waiver, officials said, because there is no immediate timeline for when the embassy relocation will take place and the law requires cuts to State Department funding if the deadline lapses.

But the Palestinians want the eastern sector as the capital of their future state and fiercely oppose any Israeli attempt to extend sovereignty there.

The status of Jerusalem remains one of the core issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, which had dominated Gaza since soon after Israel ended a 38-year occupation of it in 2005, said Trump had committed a "flagrant aggression against the Palestinian people". Palestinians have been stung by Trump's decision, which they see as adopting Israel's position without regard for their own.

President Emmanuel Macron of France at an EU meeting in Brussels Oct. 19 2017
President Emmanuel Macron of France at an EU meeting in Brussels Oct. 19 2017

The European Union's top diplomat, Federica Mogherini, also said it would damage peace talks, and senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat said past year that the move would mean "the destruction of the peace process as a whole".

Qatar's foreign minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani, said Trump's undertaking was a "death sentence for all who seek peace" and called it "a unsafe escalation".

East Jerusalem, which was captured by Israel in the 1967 Six-day War, was not part of the original lines drawn for Israel in 1949.

The U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem tweeted on Tuesday that U.S. citizens should avoid areas where crowds have gathered to demonstrate.

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said the USA move was a sign of its incompetence and failure, according to his personal website.

Since Palestinians also consider Jerusalem their capital, any policy that appears to favor the Israelis' claim over the Palestinians' is extremely contentious.

Tje spokesman, Ibrahim Kalin, told reporters in Ankara that the meeting would convene, "to display joint action among Islamic countries". "We must avoid at all costs avoid violence and foster dialogue".

Guterres implicitly criticised Trump, stressing his opposition to "any unilateral measures that would jeopardise the prospect of peace".

Trump also kicked off the process of moving the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, making good on a campaign promise dear to evangelical Christian and right wing Jewish voters - as well as donors. "I will do everything in my power to support the Israeli and Palestinian leaders to return to meaningful negotiations".