Trump Recognizes Jerusalem as Israeli
Capital Amid Negative Reactions
December 06, 2017
President Donald Trump says the U.S.
is officially recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital and beginning
the process of moving the embassy from Tel Aviv, a development that is
drawing a negative reaction from much of the world.
“Jerusalem is not just the heart of three great religions, but it is now
also the heart of one of the most successful democracies in the world,"
Trump said in a speech Wednesday. "Over the past seven decades, the
Israeli People have built a country where Jews, Muslims, Christians, and
people of all faiths are free to live and worship according to their
conscience and beliefs.”
He stressed that the U.S. "remains deeply committed to helping
facilitate a peace agreement that is acceptable to both "Israel and the
Palestinians.” "I intend to do everything in my power to help forge such
an agreement,” Trump said.
Arab and Muslim states are warning that the controversial decision could
enflame tensions in the region and destroy U.S. efforts to reach an
Arab-Israeli peace agreement.
Palestinians are calling for three "Days of Rage" to protest President
Pope Francis expressed "profound concern" about the move, while Turkey
called for a meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to
coordinate a response. Iran called the move "wrong, illegitimate,
provocative and very dangerous."
The Trump administration has staunchly defended the move, saying the
president is merely recognizing what it calls a historic and modern
reality. The move would also make good on a campaign promise which was
backed by some of his evangelical Christian and Jewish supporters.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Wednesday the U.S. still thinks
there is "a very good opportunity for peace" between Israel and the
Speaking in Brussels, Tillerson said Trump "is very committed to the
Middle East peace process. He has a team he put into place. That team
has been working very diligently." The top U.S. diplomat urged people to
"listen carefully to the entirety" of Trump's speech.
The officials say the president will order the State Department to start
making plans to move the U.S. embassy there from Tel Aviv. They say the
process will take years to find a site, secure funding, and construct a
new building. Until then, Trump will sign the usual waiver postponing
Trump telephoned Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, Palestinian leader
Mahmoud Abbas and at least three other regional leaders Tuesday to
explain his move. A White House statement said Trump had reaffirmed his
commitment to advancing Israeli-Palestinian peace talks and the
importance of supporting those talks.
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
"The United States does lease an area of land in West Jerusalem for a
dollar a year," Randolph-Macon College history professor Michael
Fischbach told VOA. "One thing would be, there’s a massive amount not
only of construction that would have to occur, but then moving people
and facilities from Tel Aviv."
Dennis Ross was the U.S. point man on the Middle East peace process
under three presidents and worked with Israelis and Palestinians to
reach the 1995 Interim Agreement. He said Tuesday Trump appears to be
leaving a lot of room for both Israelis and Arabs to maneuver in the
newly changed environment.
"It’s very important for the
president to create a lot of 'handles' or 'hooks' for our friends to
say, fundamentally, this does not change the ability of Palestinians,
the Arabs who tend to see Jerusalem not just (as) a Palestinian issue
but a regional issue, that their position, their concern, their claim
still has to be part of the negotiation process and that hasn’t been
pre-empted," Ross said. "That seems to me to be the key to this."
Some officials in Washington have expressed concern about the potential
for a violent backlash against Israel and American interests in the
The U.S. Consulate General is restricting American government workers
and their families from personal travel Wednesday in Jerusalem's Old
City and West Bank, including Bethlehem and Jericho, amid widespread
calls for demonstrations.
U.S. embassies worldwide also have been ordered to increase security.