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Trump to recognise Jerusalem as Israel capital in US policy shift, reaches out to West Asia leaders

Trump’s endorsement of Israel’s claim to all of Jerusalem as its capital would reverse long-standing US policy that the city’s status must be decided in negotiations with the Palestinians.

world Updated: Dec 06, 2017 20:11 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Washington, Hindustan Times
Donald Trump,Israel,Jerusalem
A view of Jerusalem's old city.(AP Photo)

President Donald Trump will announce on Wednesday that the United States recognises Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, upending decades of American policy and disregarding public appeals and warnings from allies in the region and outside.

Trump will also announce that the US is relocating its embassy from Tel Aviv, where most countries including India have their main diplomatic missions, to Jerusalem --- a process that, officials have said, could take upwards of three or four years.

In recognition of the sensitive nature of the announcements, the United States is boosting the security of its facilities and officials and has warned its citizens to take adequate precaution where ever they were if travelling abroad.

Trump conveyed his decision, which he will announce in a speech from the White House on Wednesday afternoon (11:30pm India time), to the leaders of the Palestinian National Authority, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt and Israel in a series of phone calls through the day.

Trump was told in unequivocal terms by all but Israel that the announcement would be a mistake and would complicate an already complex situation and make peace more difficult to achieve. Palestinians, who have claims on East Jerusalem, have announced the start of three “days of rage” in protest. French President Emmanuel Macron had conveyed his concerns to Trump earlier on Monday.

Read more | Donald Trump moves ahead on Jerusalem-as-Israel capital: Explained

Senior administration officials said the decision, which fulfils an important campaign promise, was an acknowledgement of the “historical and current reality” and insisted it will not have any bearing on the boundaries of future Israeli and Palestinian states as negotiated under a final status agreement and all other disputes.— “it doesn’t change the status quo”.

Israel claims Jerusalem has been the capital of the Jewish nation for 3,000 years, and the city’s western parts, called West Jerusalem, is the seat of the government, hosting the offices of the prime minister and many government departments and the Knesset, the country’s legislature.

“For a long time, the US position held ambiguity or a lack of acknowledgement in hopes of advancing the process of peace,” one of three officials who briefed reporters said, and added, “The physical location of the American embassy is not material to a peace deal. It’s not an impediment to peace and it’s not a facilitator to peace.”

“After having tried this for 22 years, an acknowledgement of reality seems like an important thing.”

The Jerusalem Embassy Act passed in 1995 enjoins upon the state department to move the US embassy to Jerusalem or suffer punitive budgetary cuts that US presidents since have waived every six months. Trump will do that again, but he will start the relocation.

The world will be focussed on the region in the coming days as tensions are expected to flare with Palestinians, who look at East Jerusalem as the seat of their future nation and which the world recognizes as a disputed city, declared protests, starting Wednesday.

Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas conveyed his his opposition directly to Trump during their phone conversation — that he would not accept it, according to news reports citing an adviser.

King Abdullah of Jordan called Jerusalem “the key to achieving peace and stability in the region and the world” according to a statement, which went on to say, he “stressed that the adoption of this resolution will have serious implications for security and stability in the Middle East, and will undermine the efforts of the American administration to resume the peace process and fuel the feelings of Muslims and Christians”

King Salman of Saudi Arabia told the US president, “Such a dangerous step is likely to inflame the passions of Muslims around the world due to the great status of Jerusalem and the Al-Aqsa Mosque,” according to the official Saudi Press Agency.

He also said, “American announcement regarding the situation of Jerusalem prior to reaching a permanent settlement will harm peace talks and increase tensions in the area.”

And Egypt’s Abdel Fatah al-Sisi told Trump not to “complicate” the West Asia situation and that the announcement “would undermine the chances of peace” in west Asia.

American officials who previewed the announcement claimed they didn’t expect the peace process to be impacted and that considerable progress had been achieved by the team working on it — let by Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner — most of which has gone unnoticed, away from public gaze.

(With agency inputs)

First Published: Dec 06, 2017 09:06 IST