Jerusalem mayor: I applaud Donald Trump

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat applauds President Trump's pledge to declare Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Posted: Dec. 6, 2017 2:28 PM
Updated: Dec. 6, 2017 2:28 PM

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Jordan's King Abdullah II voiced his concern Wednesday over US President Donald Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital and move the US Embassy there, saying the city is key to regional stability.

Even before Trump's announcement, it spurred a chorus of criticism and concern from regional and world figures -- including important US allies such as Jordan -- who say it risks fueling instability and kills off hopes of a future Israeli-Palestinian peace deal.

"There is no alternative to a two-state solution, and Jerusalem is key to any peace agreement," said Abdullah, speaking in Ankara alongside Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is also opposed to Trump's move.

Abdullah said he had "re-emphasized our concerns" to Trump about recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

"It is imperative to work fast to reach a final status solution and a peace agreement," he said.

The Jordanian King added that any such agreement must allow for an independent Palestinian state and that "ignoring Palestinian Muslim and Christian rights" in the holy city "could fuel terrorism."

Abdullah is also the custodian of the Muslim holy sites in the Old City of Jerusalem.

Erdogan warned that a wrong step taken in Jerusalem would cause a reaction across the Islamic world that could destroy the foundations for peace. Turkey shares the "sensitivity and the same candor with Jordan in terms of protecting the sanctity of Jerusalem and her historical status," he said.

Regarding Trump, Erdogan said, "No one person's personal ambitions should be allowed to alter the fates of billions of people. Any such move would only embolden terrorist organizations."

The Trump administration cast the landmark step as a "recognition of reality" that Jerusalem has long been the seat of the Israeli government. In announcing the move Wednesday, Trump stressed that the decision would have no impact on the boundaries of future Israeli and Palestinian states as negotiated under a final status agreement.

Israel's government welcomed the controversial move, although Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not refer to it directly in a speech Wednesday, instead hailing the strength of US-Israeli ties.

While there are challenges, Israel has an "irreplaceable alliance" with the United States that is "very strong," Netanyahu said in an address at the Jerusalem Post Diplomatic Conference.

PLO: 'Death knell of any peace process'

Palestinian factions called for three "days of rage" in protest, and the US State Department has issued a travel warning for the West Bank and Jerusalem's Old City.

"It means the death knell of any peace process," said Hanan Ashrawi, an executive committee member of the Palestine Liberation Organization.

She railed against Trump for provoking religious feelings.

"He has disqualified the US sadly from any and all peacemaking, and at the same time he has given all extremists and nuts all over the world who are ready to commit acts of violence a perfect excuse."

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was scheduled to address the Palestinian people in response to Trump's move.

The announcement moves Trump one step closer to fulfilling his campaign pledge to relocate the US Embassy to Jerusalem -- a move long sought by Israel, but set aside by previous US presidents due to regional security concerns and because the international community had agreed that Jerusalem's status would be resolved as part of a negotiated agreement between Israelis and Palestinians. Both sides claim the holy city as their capital.

No countries have embassies in Jerusalem.

Turkey: 'It will bring chaos'

Ahead of his announcement, Trump spoke Tuesday to Abbas, King Abdullah, Egypt's Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and Saudi Arabia's King Salman.

Those conversations prompted regional statements opposing the plan, warning it will undermine stability and scuttle any hopes of peace for the foreseeable future.

Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, posted on his official Twitter account that the US decision was made "out of despair and debility."

"On issue of #Palestine their hands are tied and they can't achieve their goals," he tweeted. "Palestine will be free. Palestinian nation will achieve victory."

A Syrian Foreign Ministry statement quoted by state news agency SANA condemned the Trump administration's plan and urged the Arab world to strengthen its support for the Palestinian people and a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital.

"This dangerous step by the American administration reveals clearly the United States' disrespect for international law," it said Wednesday.

Kremlin: 'Serious concern'

Other leading international figures also voiced concern about Trump's decision.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters during a regularly scheduled call Wednesday that President Vladimir Putin had spoken to Abbas on Tuesday and expressed "serious concern for possible deterioration of the situation."

Peskov said that the situation in Jerusalem was "not easy."

European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said any action that could undermine an eventual peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians "must absolutely be avoided."

British Prime Minister Theresa May said the UK position on Jerusalem continued to be that "the status of Jerusalem should be determined in a negotiated settlement between Israel and the Palestinians." The city "ultimately should form a shared capital" between a secure Israel and a viable Palestinian state, she said Wednesday.

Pope Francis called for wisdom and prudence to prevail with regards to Jerusalem, to prevent further tensions in a conflict-torn world.

"I cannot remain silent about my deep concern for the situation that has developed in recent days and at the same time, I wish to make a heartfelt appeal to ensure that everyone is committed to respecting the status quo of the city, in accordance with the relevant resolutions of the United Nations," he said.

"Jerusalem is a unique city, sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims, where the holy places for the respective religions are venerated and it has a special vocation to peace."

Church leaders from 13 Christian denominations in Jerusalem released a letter addressed to Trump in which they warn that his decision "will yield increased hatred, conflict, violence and suffering in Jerusalem and the Holy Land."

The church leaders said their "solemn advice and plea is for the United States to continue recognizing the present international status of Jerusalem. Any sudden changes would cause irreparable harm."

Israeli response

The Israeli government has praised Trump's move.

"This is an historical day. I welcome President Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel," Yisrael Katz, Israel's transportation and intelligence minister, said Wednesday.

"Whoever does not recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel does not recognize the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state."

Meanwhile, Yair Lapid, leader of the opposition Yesh Atid party, called on the entire world to recognize a united Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and urged recognition of Israel's full sovereignty over the disputed Golan Heights.

"The new reality in Syria is that Iran is going from boots on the ground to roots in the ground. This is why there is no scenario in which Israel can, or should ever, be expected to return the Golan Heights," Lapid said, speaking at the same diplomatic conference where Netanyahu made his remarks.

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat told CNN that Trump's decision was "the right thing to do, and here in Jerusalem and Israel we applaud the President."

Asked if he was worried that violence might result from the move, Barkat said: "The state of Israel would never be what it is today if we would be deterred by violence."

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