President Trump recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and initiated steps to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to the holy city, reversing decades of U.S. foreign policy. Trump has dramatically reshaped a consequential position on an issue that involves the history, politics, and religions that dominate the Middle East.
“I have determined that it is time to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel,” the US leader said in a speech from the White House. He described the move as “a long overdue step to advance the Middle East peace process”.
The president’s decision sparked global condemnation from all over the world; world leaders call Trump’s announcement ‘dangerous’ and ‘irresponsible’, while Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said it was a “historic day”. He called the Trump’s decision “courageous and just” and urged other countries to follow his footsteps.
President Mahmoud Abbas refuses to acknowledge Trump’s contentious move, “These deplorable and unacceptable measures deliberately undermine all peace efforts.” He added that Jerusalem was the “eternal capital of the state of Palestine”. He has called for three “days of rage” against the move.
Officials of Iran have said that Trump’s Jerusalem move will spark a new “Intifada” and King Salman of Saudi commented that the move would be “a dangerous step”.
Meanwhile, several protests broke out in the Gaza Strip; Ismail Haniye of Hamas said: “Our Palestinian people everywhere will not allow this conspiracy to pass, and their options are open in defending their land and their sacred places.”
Why is Trump undoing decades of U.S. policy on Jerusalem?
Recognizing Jerusalem as a capital of Israel was one of his promises he made during his election campaign last year. According to the Politico news website, Las Vegas casino magnate Sheldon Adelson – who reportedly gave $25m to groups backing Trump ahead of the 2016 election- has expressed anger at Trump over his failure to fulfil the Jerusalem pledge.
The status of Jerusalem and its importance
The status of Jerusalem lies at the heart of the long-running Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The city of Jerusalem, known in Arabic as al-Quds (“The Noble, Sacred Place”) and in Hebrew as Yerushalayim, is sacred to all three of the great monotheistic religions. The city is the home to holy sites revered by Jews, Muslims, and Christians.
Today, West Jerusalem is largely Israeli while East Jerusalem is largely Arab. During the Six Day War of 1967 or “al Naksa”, Israel captured the eastern half of Jerusalem. In 1980, Israel approved the “Jerusalem Law”, stating, “Jerusalem, complete and united, is the capital of Israel”, thereby formalising its annexation of East Jerusalem. Nevertheless, it is never internationally recognized as part of Israel as the international community officially regards East Jerusalem as occupied territory. Additionally, no country in the world recognised any part of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Until now.
Kiss of death
Palestinians say Trump’s move means the “kiss of death” to the two-state solution, which included a Palestinian state in territory – Gaza, West Bank and East Jerusalem. Leaders in the Middle East and elsewhere had warned Trump that any change to the status quo would mean the end of the peace process. Moreover, the U.S. can no longer be a neutral mediator in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
The Arabs and their lost Unity
The White House is probably betting that Arabs no longer care about Palestine, or even Jerusalem as they are all interested in protecting relations with Trump over more urgent issues, such as fighting Iran. It is true that today The Middle East is more divided than ever. Many Arab governments are focusing on their own conflicts and tragedies. However, Jerusalem has remained a central symbol that transcends the divide. It’s pretty unusual for Iran and Saudi Arabia to agree on something…