Trump to recognise Jerusalem as capital, sparking Palestinian 'rage'

Author
James Law, news.com.au,
Section
World,
Publish Date
Wednesday, 6 December 2017, 4:42PM
Donald Trump is threatening further global conflict over his decision. (Photo / Getty)
Donald Trump is threatening further global conflict over his decision. (Photo / Getty)

US President Donald Trump will officially recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, a potentially dangerous change that will spark "three days of rage" in Palestine.

White House officials have confirmed the President's decision to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, ahead of the President's speech on the subject early tomorrow, Australian time.

Senior white house staffers said the move was designed to acknowledge the "reality" that Jerusalem was the capital of Israel and fulfil a "major campaign promise".

The change in policy is controversial because it is likely to be viewed in the region as the US siding with Israel. King Abdullah of Jordan said the decision "would constitute a flagrant provocation to all Muslims, all over the world".

Talk of the change received a swift rebuke from Palestinian factions, who called for protests to start on Wednesday and continue through to Friday, according to The Jerusalem Post. There are fears the demonstrations will turn violent.

"We call on all our people in Israel and around the world to gather in city centres and Israeli embassies and consulates, with the aim of bringing about general popular anger," Palestinian national and Islamic forces said in a statement.

The White House said the city's place as the capital was both a "historical reality" that stretched back to the establishment of Israel in 1948, and a "current reality" given that it was home to the parliament, supreme court and prime minister.

"The President is affirming a reality, a seven-decade-old fact," a senior White House official said.

The status of Jerusalem is volatile because it contains sites that are holy to Judaism, Islam and Christianity.

Trump's decision could imply that Israel has sovereignty of east Jerusalem, which Palestinians seek as their capital under a two-state solution. The White House says movement of the embassy does not "speak to" those conflicts.

Regardless, the move will not be immediate.

Tomorrow, Trump will direct the US State Department to begin moving the embassy, a process that takes at least three years. A site has yet to be chosen.

The White House acknowledged it was a "sensitive issue", but said the change did not affect ongoing debates between Israel and Palestine over borders and sovereignty.

"Delaying the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital has done nothing to achieve peace for more than two decades," a senior White House official said.

"For a long time, the US position held that the ambiguity would advance the prospect of peace. Twenty-two years on and it seems clear that the focus on the location of the US embassy has … not facilitated peace."

Trump is "optimistic" of striking a peace deal in the Middle East.

"He believes it can be achieved," a senior White House official said.

Trump believes it is both move is both the "right time and the right step".

Despite the Palestinians' angry reaction, the White House said it was confident it would not lead to them walking away from peace talks.

"Everybody wants peace. The way to achieve it is to stay engaged," an official said.

The White House said there was bipartisan support in Congress for the move, which Mr Trump wants carried out with minimal costs to the American people.

While construction of the new embassy is unlikely to be completed before the end of Mr Trump's presidential term, the White House said the move would be followed through to completion, regardless of the outcome of the next election.

Trump separately discussed the Jerusalem issue with the leaders of Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia on Tuesday.

King Abdullah of Jordan told Trump his policy would set back the prospect of peace in the region, according to official Jordanian news agency Petra.

"Such a decision would be dangerous to the security and stability of the Middle East, and would lead to the collapse of American efforts for peace, and would also lead to strong reactions among Muslims and Christians," King Abdullah said.

Many other world leaders have spoken out against Trump's plan, including French President Emmanuel Macron, who has warned the US President it was a bad idea.

Macron, along with former US presidents, have argued that the status of Jerusalem should be determined by Israel and Palestine as part of peace talks.

The White House said it was "obviously concerned" about the safety of US citizens in region after Trump's announcement.

America's consulate in Jerusalem ordered US personnel and their families to avoid visiting Jerusalem's Old City or the West Bank, and urged American citizens in general to avoid places with increased police or military presence, AP reported.

 

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