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Trump Says U.S. Recognizes Jerusalem As Israeli Capital, Vows To Move Embassy

RFE/RL December 06, 2017

WASHINGTON -- President Donald Trump has announced that the United States now recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, a move that drew praise from Israel but criticism and condemnation elsewhere.

Trump in his December 6 speech also said that he has ordered the State Department to begin preparations to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to the disputed city, a move experts say could take three to four years.

"I have determined that it is time to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel," Trump said. "Today, we finally acknowledge the obvious -- that Jerusalem is Israel's capital.

"Israel is a sovereign nation with the right like every other sovereign nation to determine its own capital," he added.

The announcement reverses a decadeslong U.S. policy that the city's status must be decided in negotiations with the Palestinians, who want East Jerusalem to be the capital of their future state, the so-called "two-state" solution.

Trump said that he still intends "to do everything in my power to help force" a peace agreement acceptable to both Israelis and Palestinians.

Most nations do not recognize Israeli sovereignty over the entire city, which includes sites considered holy by Muslims, Jews, and Christians.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed Trump's declaration as "historic" and urged other countries to follow the United States by moving their embassies to Jerusalem.

However, Palestinians and Arab leaders, as well as key U.S. allies, warned that the move risks triggering violence across the entire Middle East and complicating the peace process.

Saeb Erekat, the secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), said Trump's decision "destroyed the two-state solution" and that the U.S. president "disqualified his country from any role whatsoever" in the peace process.

"As a chief Palestinian negotiator, how can I sit with these people if they dictate on me the future of Jerusalem as Israel's capital?" he added.

Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist group, urged Arabs and Muslims to "undermine" the United States in the region and called Trump's move "flagrant" aggression against the Palestinian people.

French President Emmanuel Macron said during a visit to Algeria that Trump's decision was "regrettable" and that his country did not support it, adding that the final status of Jerusalem should be decided by Israelis and Palestinians.

He called for calm from all sides, saying that violence must be avoided "at all costs."

British Prime Minister Theresa May called Trump's decision "unhelpful in terms of prospects for peace in the region."

The European Union also warned of the potential adverse effects the move could have on peace prospects.

"The aspirations of both parties must be fulfilled and a way must be found through negotiations to resolve the status of Jerusalem as the future capital of both states," said EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also said that Jerusalem's future must be resolved through Israeli-Palestinian talks and that "there is no alternative to the two-state solution…There is no Plan B."

Iranian state media quoted the Foreign Ministry as saying it "seriously condemns" the U.S. decision.

In a Twitter statement, Pakistan's Foreign Minister Khwaja Asif called the U.S. move "an affront to Palestinians and the Muslim world...practically burying the two-state solution."

Egypt and Jordan accused Trump of violating international law with his decision, which the Turkish Foreign Ministry called "irresponsible."

Reuters reported that several hundred people gathered outside the U.S. Consulate in Istanbul in a largely peaceful protest.

Moments before Trump's announcement, the U.S. State Department asked in a cable to all U.S. diplomatic posts for officials to defer nonessential travel to Israel, Jerusalem, and the West Bank until December 20, Reuters news agency reported, citing an official document.

Source: israel-jerusalem-capital/28901399.html

Copyright (c) 2017. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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