Trump to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, move U.S. Embassy

Fahwad al-Khadoumi (nsnbc) : U.S. President Donald Trump plans on Wednesday to announce that the United States is recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and will move the U.S. Embassy there from Tel Aviv. The decision is likely to cause an international uproar and is likely to further radicalize and polarize the Israeli – Palestinian discourse.

East Jerusalem_Trump_Jerusalem_Dec 2017White House officials commented that Trump is merely recognizing what his administration views as a historic and modern reality. Trump has already phoned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Jordanian King Abdullah, Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, and Saudi King Bin Abdulaziz al-Saud.

In its statement, the White House gave very few details of the brief phone conversations except to say “The leaders also discussed potential decisions regarding Jerusalem.” It added that Trump reaffirmed his commitment to advancing Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

White House officials said late Tuesday that Trump recognized Jerusalem is not only a historic capital of the Jewish people, is has been the seat of Israeli government since the founding of modern Israel in 1948.

The majority of governments of UN member States supports the United Nations position that Jerusalem has an international status and status as shared Israeli and Palestinian capital as well. In practical terms this could have meant that West Jerusalem becomes Israel’s de-facto capital while East Jerusalem comes Palestine’s de-facto capital. However, there are several obstacles.

Al-Aqsa_Jerusalem_PD_PalestineIsrael occupied East Jerusalem during the 1967 war and Israel has openly declared that it intends to annex East Jerusalem, the Syrian Golan Heights, as well as the Lebanese Sheba Farm area, in disregard of international law.

The closest Israel and Palestine ever came to using Jerusalem as de-facto shared capital was in the 1980s and 90s, in periods when the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) had its office in the “Orient House” in East Jerusalem.

White House officials stated that President Trump would order the State Department to start making plans to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv, adding that it could take years to find a site in Jerusalem, secure funding and construct a new building. Until then, Trump will sign the usual waiver postponing the relocation, they said.

Under a law signed by President Bill Clinton in 1995, the embassy must be relocated to Jerusalem unless the president signs a waiver every six months stating that moving the embassy would threaten U.S. national security. Every president since Clinton has signed the waiver, including Trump.

Trump during his May 2017 visit to Israel

Trump during his May 2017 visit to Israel

All done and said, it is unlikely that the United States also will accept East Jerusalem as Palestine’s capital. nsnbc editor-in-chief Christof Lehmann commented on the situation during a phone conversation Wednesday morning. Lehmann commented:

“Trump’s negotiations style is relatively straight forward and typical for American Mafiosi and Imperators. Put your partner or adversary under as much pressure as possible, knowing that the other side is aware of one’s economic and other -powers -to then relax one’s position, somewhat, and to look like the benefactor or moderate, when in fact, one acts like so many other tyrants, crooks and crime bosses. It will be interesting to see how Trump’s administration will tackle the obligatory and endless  – peace talks – while the work at making a two-State solution unfeasible and impossible continues unabated.”

Any solution that favors an official Israeli capital in Jerusalem without also recognizing East Jerusalem as Palestinian capital, or any solution that, alternatively, doesn’t recognize Jerusalem’s international status and results in the withdrawal of Israeli military from East Jerusalem is bound to result in in international outcry in Muslim but also in Christian majority countries.

Christian worshipers hold up candles lit from the 'Holy Fire' as thousands gather for the 'Holy Fire' ceremony at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem's Old City, on April 19, 2014 (AFP Gali Tibbon)

Christian worshipers hold up candles lit from the ‘Holy Fire’ as thousands gather for the ‘Holy Fire’ ceremony at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem’s Old City, on April 19, 2014 (Courtesy AFP Gali Tibbon)

Israel demands among others that the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and the Palestinian Authority (PA) recognize Israel as Jewish State, notwithstanding that many Arab Israelis – not even to speak of Palestinians – are Muslims or Christians. The Jewish Temple Mount is located in East Jerusalem. On it, Muslims built the Al-Aqsa mosque, Islam’s third-holiest site. Only meters away are several of Christendom’s oldest churches and sites.

Arab and Muslim states have warned that any decision to move the U.S. Embassy could inflame tensions in the region and destroy U.S. efforts to reach an Arab-Israeli peace agreement. Turkey’s President R. Tayyip Erdogan thundered that Turkey could sever diplomatic ties with Israel – which wouldn’t be a first, and Ankara usually normalizes relations again, without much fanfare. The obvious questions to Erdogan would be “Why wait, Jerusalem is already Israel’s de-facto capital, isn’t it?”; And why sever ties with Israel and not with the USA, considering that it is the White House that made the announcement.”

Senior Palestinian leader Nabil Shaath said Trump would no longer be seen as a credible mediator. “The Palestinian Authority does not condone violence, but it may not be able to control the street and prevent a third Palestinian uprising,” he said, speaking in Arabic.

Ahmed Aboul-Gheit, the head of the Arab League, urged the U.S. to reconsider any recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, warning of “repercussions.” French President Emmanuel Macron said he reminded Trump in a phone call Monday that Jerusalem should be determined through negotiations on setting up an independent Palestine alongside Israel. Meeting U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in Brussels, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said actions undermining peace efforts “must be absolutely avoided.”

Rdeneh_PA_Palestine_Dec 2017Nabil Abu Rdeneh, spokesman for PA President Mahmoud Abbas said Abbas had talked with Trump Tuesday afternoon. Rdeneh continued:

“It was clear that President Trump is still thinking about moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem. The position of the president (Abbas) was very clear: Moving the embassy would be unacceptable and would be completely rejected by the Palestinian side. President Abbas made a series of very crucial phone calls with  Russian President Putin, with the Pope at the Vatican, with Jordanian King Abdullah, and with French President Macron, and his position was very clear: East Jerusalem is the Palestinian capital according to international and Arab resolutions and laws.

Majdi Khaldi, diplomatic adviser to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas,  said Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital could end Washington’s role as mediator. “This would mean they decided, on their own, to distance themselves from efforts to make peace,” Khaldi told reporters. He added that such recognition would lead the Palestinians to eliminate contacts with the United States.

Several major political parties and factions called for daily protest marches this week, staring Wednesday. It is probable that there also will be organized international protests abroad.

F/AK – nsnbc 06.12.2017

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