Trump sets stage, announces Jerusalem plan in shock to a rattled region

by WorldTribune Staff, December 6, 2017

President Donald Trump has confirmed and announced plans to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and to set in motion the process of moving the American embassy to Jerusalem.

“The president is fulfilling a major promise in his election campaign, and he is also carrying out a series of decisions adopted by Congress back in 1995,” Trump administration officials said. The president “understands that this is a very sensitive issue, but he says it has become impossible to ignore the reality on the ground.”

The Israeli flag flutters in front of the Dome of the Rock mosque and the city of Jerusalem, on Dec. 1. / AFP

The news that Trump would announce the move in a speech on Dec. 6 marking Israel’s 70th Independence Day set off an immediate wave of criticism in the region.

Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar which is the supreme Islamic institution of Sunni Muslims in Egypt, warned that “the gates of hell” will open if the United States goes through with Trump’s plan.

Hamas urged “Palestinians and intifada youth” to turn Dec. 8 into a “day of rage” against the “occupation” in protest of Trump’s intentions.

In an official statement, Hamas stressed the importance of arriving at points of friction with the “occupation” in order to “convey the voice of our people that any attack on Jerusalem would bring on an explosion.”

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said Trump’s decision amounts to “a blatant attack against the Islamic and Arab nation” and that the response to such a decision would not be limited to “Palestine,” but would sweep the region.

“Nobody can foresee what will develop after Trump’s declaration,” he warned.

Haniyeh also said that he had spoken with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, “and had emphasized to him the need to put an end to the peace process,” Israel’s Artuz Sheva reported. “Within this context, Haniyeh said, Abbas told him that he intended to declare in response to Trump’s announcement that the U.S. no longer has a role in the peace process.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned that Ankara would sever ties with Israel if the U.S. recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

In a move widely perceived in Jerusalem as an effort by Erdogan to be seen as a leader in the Muslim world, he said at a meeting of his AKP Party that Jerusalem was a “redline” for Muslims.

“This could go as far as cutting our diplomatic relations with Israel. You cannot take such a step,” he was quoted by the Hurriyet newspaper as saying, adding that this would not only be a violation of international law, “but also a big blow to the conscience of humanity.”

Israel dismissed Erdogan’s threats, with diplomatic officials responding that “Jerusalem has been the capital of the Jewish people for 3,000 years, and of Israel for the last 70 – whether Erdogan recognizes that or not.”

Trump administration officials said that moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem will be a long process. “It does not mean that it will happen tomorrow. It’s a long-term move to find a new place, prepare it and build the right structure. It’s a long process. The president will not specify times – but in order to clarify expectations – it’s a matter of years, not months.”

The officials also stressed that the move does not contradict the American administration’s desire to seek peace in the Middle East. “President Trump remains committed to bringing about peace between Israel and the Palestinians. He believes that peace is achievable and he is very optimistic about this issue. He will agree to a two-state solution if both sides are interested in that and give their consent to it.”

Morocco’s King Mohammed VI, in an open letter to the American president, expressed his “deep personal concern” and “the great concern felt by Arab and Muslim states and peoples” over Trump’s decision.

“The current step is likely to negatively impact the prospects of a just and comprehensive solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict,” read the letter, which was quoted by AFP.

The king urged Trump to avoid anything that could “exacerbate feelings of frustration and disappointment, which are the basis of extremism and terrorism.”

Mohamed VI had recently visited Miami but Trump did not meet with him. Some reports said the American president refused to receive the Moroccan king over Trump’s anger against Mohamed for his pledge of $12 million to the Clinton Foundation in 2015.

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