US decision on Jerusalem sparks international backlash, protests

Thousands of people in Turkey, Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Somalia, Iran, Pakistan, India and Malaysia took to the streets to protest Trump’s decision.
December 10, 2017
Israeli border guards remove a Palestinian flag

London - US President Donald Trump’s announce­ment recognising Je­rusalem as Israel’s capital drew interna­tional criticism and sparked pro­tests across the Muslim world.

The move was met with con­cern and disapproval from US al­lies worried about its effect on po­litical stability in the Middle East and prospects for peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

Thousands of Palestinians clashed with Israeli security forc­es in the West Bank cities of He­bron, Bethlehem and Ramallah December 8 after Friday prayers, two days after Trump’s decision was formally announced.

Protesters threw stones at Is­raeli troops, who responded with tear gas and rubber bullets. Thou­sands of Palestinians rallied out­side Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa Mosque, a flashpoint site in the city.

Gaza’s Islamist Hamas rulers called for a new intifada and a Palestinian was killed during a fight along Israel’s border with Gaza.

Israel’s anti-missile system in­tercepted a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip, the Israeli Defence Forces said in a statement. It was the second such incident in two days. A retaliatory Israeli air strike on Gaza killed two Hamas militants.

Thousands of people in Turkey, Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Somalia, Iran, Pakistan, India and Malay­sia took to the streets to protest Trump’s decision. The militant al-Qaeda network urged its fol­lowers to target vital US interests.

Jibril Rajoub, a senior mem­ber of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party said US Vice-President Mike Pence was “not welcome in Pales­tine.” Rajoub signalled that Abbas would not meet with Pence dur­ing the American leader’s sched­uled visit this month.

Abbas said Trump had disquali­fied the United States from its traditional role as peace broker in the Middle East conflict. “With this position, the United States has become no longer qualified to sponsor the peace process,” Ab­bas said in a statement.

The Saudi royal court described the decision as “unjustified and irresponsible” and “a big step back in efforts to advance the peace process.” Jordanian For­eign Minister Ayman Safadi said: “There is no alternative to the two-state solution.”

Britain described Trump’s move as “unhelpful” and France said the United States had side­lined itself in the Middle East.

“I hear some, including [US Sec­retary of State Rex] Tillerson, say things will happen in time and the hour is for negotiations. Un­til now (the United States) could have had a mediation role in this conflict but it has excluded itself a little,” French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told France In­ter radio. “The reality is they are alone and isolated on this issue.”

Tillerson said it would be sev­eral years before the United States opened an embassy in Jerusalem. He said Trump’s recognition of the city as Israel’s capital “did not indicate any final status for Jeru­salem,” adding that the city’s bor­ders would be left to Israelis and Palestinians.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, who represents the bloc in the Middle East Quartet, pledged to reinvigorate diploma­cy with Russia, the United States, Jordan and others to ensure Pal­estinians have a capital in Jerusa­lem, too.

EU foreign ministers look to present a unified front before Is­raeli Prime Minister Binyamin Ne­tanyahu at a meeting in Brussels on December 11. A senior French diplomat said it was crucial that EU governments had a clear mes­sage for the Israeli leader.

“What we are going to try and do is convince our European part­ners when we meet Netanyahu… to tell him that what is happening with the United States is a seri­ous issue for him, Israel and any peace prospect,” the diplomat told Reuters.

Russian President Vladimir Pu­tin is to visit Turkey December 11 to discuss developments on Je­rusalem with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkish presidential sources said. Erdog­an and Putin have already spoken by telephone and agreed the US decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital would have a negative effect on the region’s peace and stability.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Trump’s announce­ment “runs counter to common sense.” Some analysts questioned how a fair peace process could be possible by granting such a major Israeli demand while seeming to require nothing in return.

Israel has long claimed all of Jerusalem as its capital while the Palestinians see the eastern sec­tor of the city as the seat of their future country.

US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said Wash­ington remains committed to reaching an Israeli-Palestini­an peace accord. She said that Trump, in his reversal of two dec­ades of US foreign policy, was rec­ognising reality since the Israeli government and Knesset are in Jerusalem.

“I understand the concerns that members have in calling this ses­sion,” Haley said at an emergency meeting December 8 of the UN Se­curity Council. “Change is hard.”