BY NIDAL Y. HAMDAN
President Trump’s “Jerusalem Move”
In a move that could ignite the region, President Donald Trump announced last night that the United States had officially recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and would begin the process of relocating its embassy to the city, breaking decades of US policy.
Trump signed an executive order of the recognition and stated: “I have determined that it is time to officially recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel”. However, the US President added that he was not taking position on any final status issues, including contested borders, and focused that he intends “to do everything” in his power to help forge a peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians.
The American president said he ordered the State Department to develop plan to relocate the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Shortly after Trump’s speech, the political space in the region was filled with statements of condemnation and rejection, and angry demonstrations took place in a number of cities, such as Ramallah, Gaza, Beirut and Istanbul.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas rejected Trump’s speech, having referred to it as “playing with fire” and told that the USA could no longer mediate between Israel and Palestinians.
Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, said that the President of the USA had “destroyed any possibility of peace” and had been “pushing this region towards chaos and violence”.
Erekat, in regard to Trump’s actions, commented: “He is destroying all moderates in the region and he’s giving power to extremists”.
The Palestinian negotiator viewed this decision as “the most dangerous that any US president has ever taken”, adding that Trump had “disqualified his country from any possible role in the peace process”.
Palestinian Islamic Resistance Group (Hamas) warned that Trump’s decision would “open the gates of hell” to US interests and called for its failure.
On the streets, Palestinian protesters have burned pictures of Trump and called for Intifada (confrontations with Israel), but it seems very difficult to happen this time with the absences of the strong Arabic stand-off and hard leadership.
World leaders have warned that violent reactions in regard to the US embassy’s announcement are a distinct possibility.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, speaking at a press conference in Istanbul with King Abdullah II of Jordan, highlighted the threat of violence after the US decision. He said that “no one has the right to play with the fate and development of millions of people for the sake of personal ambitions. Such a step will only play into the hands of terror groups”.
King Abdullah II said that the US was inviting blow-back with the decision. He also added that “ignoring the Palestinian, Muslim, and Christian rights in Jerusalem will only fuel further extremism and undermine the war against terrorism”.
Why he did it?
The 1995 Jerusalem Embassy Act requires the US government to establish an embassy in Jerusalem, but allows the President to delay doing so by signing a waiver every six months. The waiver spares the state department financial penalties for failing to comply with the law.
Presidents Bush and Obama signed the waiver twice per year with little fanfare. However, Trump has long hinted he would deviate from his predecessors.
Muslims underline that Jerusalem is the historical and future capital of Palestine, citing its importance as the third holiest city in Islam and its historic ties with the Palestinian people.