As expected, President Trump on Wednesday recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital and announced plans to relocate the U.S. embassy there, a decision that is certain to inflame tensions in the region and throw a wrench in potential peace negotiations, paradoxically uniting the fractured middle east world against Israel and the U.S.
"I have determined that it is time to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel," Trump said shortly after 1pm in the White House.
Trump said the announcement “marks the beginning of a new approach to conflict between Israel and Palestinians.”
As discussed earlier, Trump’s move reverses decades of American policy in the Middle East and alienates regional allies, even as the president has made brokering an elusive Middle East peace deal a key goal.
“This is a long overdue step to advance the peace process and work towards a lasting agreement”, Mr Trump said in his remarks. He added that he was directing the US State Department to develop a plan to move its Israel embassy from its current location in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Trump framed the decision as a way to put his own stamp on one of history’s oldest conflicts.
“The record is in: after more than two decades of waivers, we are no closer to a lasting peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians,” the president said. “It would be folly to assume that repeating the exact same formula would now produce a different or better result."
The move showed Trump’s inclination to prioritize domestic politics over the desires of U.S. allies in the Middle East and Europe who warned the announcement could spark violence in a region that is already a powder keg.
"While previous presidents have made this a major campaign promise, they failed to deliver," the president said. "Today, I am delivering."
It will hardly play out that way.
As Bloomberg notes, leaders across the Middle East, including from Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the Arab League have also spoken out against the plan, and Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called Trump’s plan a sign of U.S. “failure and impotence.”
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Jordan’s King Abdullah II, warned him the announcement would have “dangerous” repercussions for regional stability. Separately, the Palestinian delegate to the United Kingdom said on Wednesday that President Trump's move to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel signals "a declaration of war" in the region. “He is declaring war in the Middle East, he is declaring war against 1.5 billion Muslims, hundreds of millions of Christians that are not going to accept the holy shrines to be totally under the hegemony of Israel,” Manuel Hassassian told BBC 4 Radio's "Today."
The Turkish government’s spokesman on Wednesday said that the United States’ decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel will plunge the region and the world into “a fire with no end in sight”.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the “whole world is against” Trump’s move. He says that moving the embassy to Jerusalem would be a “grave mistake” and would “not bring any stability, peace but rather chaos and instability.”
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has also blasted Washington's decision to relocate the US embassy to Jerusalem as a display of incompetence. "That they claim they want to announce Quds as the capital of occupied Palestine is because of their incompetence and failure," Khamenei said, using the Arabic name for Jerusalem.
The Syrian government also weighed in on the planned move. "[The move] is the culmination of the crime of usurping Palestine and displacing the Palestinian people," a Foreign Ministry official told state news agency SANA.
Palestinian Christians in Bethlehem were spotted burning photographs of Donald Trump and holding signs reading “Move the embassy to your country, not ours,” and “Jerusalem, Palestine's heart, is not up to negotiations.”
The declaration of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital carries deep symbolic significance and could have dangerous consequences. The competing claims to east Jerusalem, the section of the city captured by Israel in 1967, have frequently boiled over into deadly violence over the years. East Jerusalem is home to the city’s most sensitive Jewish, Muslim and Christian holy sites, as well as its 330,000 Palestinian residents.
The United States has never endorsed the Jewish state’s claim of sovereignty over any part of Jerusalem and has insisted its status be resolved through Israeli-Palestinian negotiation.
The mere consideration of Trump changing the status quo sparked a renewed U.S. security warning on Tuesday. America’s consulate in Jerusalem ordered U.S. personnel and their families to avoid visiting Jerusalem’s Old City or the West Bank, and urged American citizens in general to avoid places with increased police or military presence.