US to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital
Disregarding warnings from leaders of the Muslim world and the wider international community, President Donald Trump was set to announce on Wednesday that the United States recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Trump, who had made a campaign promise on the subject, was slated to make the announcement at 1 p.m. ET (11.30 p.m. IST) and direct the State Department to initiate steps to relocate the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem – a process that is expected to take at least three or four years.
“The President would say that the US government recognises that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. He views this as a recognition of historic reality,” a senior administration official told reporters on Tuesday evening.
That Jerusalem has been the capital of the Jewish people since ancient times is both historic reality and modern reality, the official said, pointing out that the city has been the seat of nearly all of the Israeli government, its ministries, legislature and the Supreme Court since 1948.
Ahead of the projected announcement, Trump held separate telephone conversations on Tuesday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Jordan’s King Abdullah, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi and Saudi King Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud.
Barring Netanyahu, the other leaders who received the phone calls have “joined a mounting chorus of voices warning that unilateral US steps on Jerusalem would derail a fledgling US-led peace effort and unleash turmoil in the region,” Reuters reported, while noting that Israel, however, welcomes Trump’s decision.
A White House readout of the calls made just a passing mention on Jerusalem. In his conversations, Trump “reaffirmed his commitment to advancing Israeli-Palestinian peace talks”, and “underscored the importance of bilateral cooperation with each partner to advance peace efforts throughout the region”, the readout said, before adding in a single sentence: “The leaders also discussed potential decisions regarding Jerusalem.”
Amid the warnings from several countries that Trump’s move would inflame passions and kill all hopes for peace in West Asia, the State Department is “warning embassies around the world to be alert for violence” in the wake of the announcement, media reports said.
Apart from leaders of Muslim nations around Israel, US’s partners in Europe, including Britain, France and Germany, have all voiced their strong reservations over Trump’s unilateral move.
US officials, however, sought to quell fears over the move triggering a setback to peace efforts. “President Trump remains committed to achieving a lasting peace agreement between the Palestinians and Israel, and is optimistic that peace can be achieved,” said the administration official while briefing reporters.
In any event, not recognising Jerusalem as capital of Israel has done nothing to achieve peace for more than two decades, the official suggested, adding that Trump believes a deal can still be achieved.
On the question of boundaries, the official said that Trump recognises that the boundaries of Israeli sovereignty are subject to final status negotiations, noting: “This announcement does not change US policy over these specific borders.”
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