Global leaders slam US President Donald Trump’s decision to relocate Israeli embassy to Jerusalem

Palestinian officials declared the Middle East peace process ‘finished’ and Turkey called a meeting of Islamic nations next week to plan response

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 06 December, 2017, 9:48pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 06 December, 2017, 11:40pm

America’s friends and foes unleashed fierce criticism on Wednesday as President Donald Trump moved to formally recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

In a speech delivered overnight, Trump was expected to instruct the State Department to begin the multiyear process of moving the American embassy from Tel Aviv to the holy city, effectively recognising it as Israel’s capital.

While Israel welcomed the news, Palestinian officials declared the Middle East peace process “finished” and Turkey has called a meeting of Islamic nations next week to give Muslim countries’ leaders an opportunity to coordinate a response. The Arab League scheduled an emergency meeting on Saturday.

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“There is no way that there can be talks with the Americans. The peace process is finished. They have already pre-empted the outcome,” said Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi. “They cannot take us for granted.”

The US decision “destroys the peace process”, added Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah. Top Palestinian officials were meeting on Wednesday to plot their course forward.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was yet to make a formal statement on the US decision.

However Education Minister Naftali Bennett, head of the nationalist Jewish Home party, praised what he called Trump’s “bold and yet natural” move.

“The sooner the Arab world recognises Jerusalem as our capital, the sooner we will reach real peace. Real peace that is not predicated on an illusion that we are going to carve up Jerusalem and carve up Israel,” Bennett said.

The move, which would upend decades of US policy and risk potentially violent protests, came despite intense opposition from global leaders, particularly from Arab and Muslim nations.

Iranian President Hassan Rowhani blasted Trump’s plan, saying the country “will not tolerate a violation of Islamic sanctities”.

“Muslims must stand united against this major plot,” he said.

King Abdullah II of Jordan warned of serious consequences, the state-run Petra news agency reported.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the “whole world is against” President Donald Trump, and the decision to move the American embassy would be a “grave mistake”.

Meanwhile, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang warned Washington’s plan would trigger an escalation of tensions in the Middle East.

“All parties should be cautious in order to maintain peace. All parties should avoid shaking the long-term foundations of solving the Palestinian issues, and avoid creating new divisions in the region,” he said.

Pope Francis said he was “profoundly concerned” and appealed that “everyone respects the status quo of the city”. Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May said the status of Jerusalem should be determined as part of a settlement between Israel and the Palestinians.

The swift and harsh reaction cast doubt over the feasibility of a US peace plan expected to be presented by the White House soon. Trump’s Middle East team, led by his adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, have spent months meeting with Israeli, Palestinian and Arab leaders.

With details of their long awaited plan still a mystery, Britain’s Foreign Minister, Boris Johnson urged the Americans to present their proposal quickly.

The declaration of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital carries deep symbolic significance and could have dangerous consequences.

The Palestinians seek east Jerusalem – the section of the city captured by Israel in 1967 – as the capital of a future independent state and fear that Trump’s declaration essentially imposes on them a disastrous solution for one of the core issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

East Jerusalem is home to the city’s most sensitive Jewish, Muslim and Christian holy sites, as well as its 330,000 Palestinian residents.

The United States has never endorsed the Jewish state’s claim of sovereignty over any part of Jerusalem and has insisted its status be resolved through Israeli-Palestinian negotiation.

The American embassy’s relocation has long been required by US law, but has repeatedly been delayed since president at the time Bill Clinton signed a law in 1995 stipulating that the United States must move its diplomatic presence to Jerusalem unless the commander in chief issues a waiver on national security grounds.

Trump, as a presidential candidate, repeatedly promised to move the US embassy.

America’s consulate in Jerusalem has ordered US personnel and their families to avoid visiting Jerusalem’s Old City or the West Bank, and urged American citizens in general to avoid places with increased police or military presence.

Reporting by Reuters and Associated Press