Trump’s plan to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital met with global condemnation
Nations across the globe denounced President Donald Trump’s planned decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and eventually relocate the U.S. embassy there, calling it a “grave mistake” that will erode if not outright collapse any broader peace plan in the Middle East.
Arab and majority-Muslim nations warned that the move, expected to be announced Wednesday, would be detrimental to any peace effort, and China and Russia both expressed concern. U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres, through a spokesman, said he opposes any action that would hurt a two-state solution. Hamas, meanwhile, declared a day of rage on Friday to protest the move.
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According to an Associated Press report, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said the embassy move “breaks red lines” for his group, which has been labeled a terrorist organization by the U.S. He said Trump’s expected announcement would ignite “the spark of rage against the occupation.”
Trump’s decision to relocate the embassy raises the potential for violence in the region, even though the actual move could take years. U.S. presidents for decades have signed waivers to put off moving the embassy from Tel Aviv, and Trump plans to sign another six-month extension.
Still, the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem on Tuesday issued a security warning barring government employees and their families from personal travel in Jerusalem’s Old City or the West Bank, including Bethlehem and Jericho.
Trump’s announcement would be an attempt to make good on a campaign promise he made during last year’s campaign to relocate the embassy to Jerusalem. It also would move toward putting U.S. foreign policy in line with a law passed by Congress in 1995 mandating the embassy move and the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Past presidents, including some who made campaign promises similar to Trump’s, repeatedly signed six-month waivers to avoid moving the embassy.
The administration has already begun looking at existing structures in Jerusalem to use for the U.S. embassy there, said Jonathan Schanzer, vice president of research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a former Treasury Department terrorism finance analyst, who said he spoke to senior administration officials on Wednesday about the plan.
The administration has ruled out using the existing U.S. consulate in Jerusalem as the embassy. U.S. officials expect it to take at least three to four years to move the embassy, Schanzer said, adding that one Trump aide called that timeline a “conservative estimate.”
At the heart of the controversy surrounding Trump’s decision is Jerusalem’s contested status between Israel and Palestinians. Both lay claim to the ancient city as their capital. Hamas controls the Gaza Strip. Past U.S. administrations have resisted taking a side on the status of Jerusalem, trying instead to keep avenues for peace dialogues open. Palestinians would almost certainly seek recognition of East Jerusalem as its capital in any two-state solution, potentially putting the U.S. embassy move at odds with any peace deal.
Senior Trump administration officials told reporters Tuesday that the president will not declare that Jerusalem must remain “undivided” in any peace deal, leaving open the possibility of a Palestinian capital in the eastern part of the city. The officials characterized the eventual embassy move as little more than an acknowledgment of reality.
“While President Trump recognizes that the status of Jerusalem is a highly sensitive issue, he does not think it will be resolved by ignoring the simple truth that Jerusalem is home to Israel’s legislature, its supreme court and the prime minister, and as such is the capital of Israel,” one official said. “Delaying the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel has done nothing to achieve peace for more than two decades.”