A defiant President Trump formalized his decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel on Wednesday — frustrating world leaders who warned the move could throw the Middle East into chaos.
The decision, coupled with the promise to relocate the U.S. embassy to the Holy City from Tel Aviv, marks a sea change that breaks from nearly 70 years of American foreign policy.
“I have determined that it is time to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel,” Trump said from the White House, faulting his predecessors for not making the move sooner as conflict continued between Israelis and Palestinians.
“This is a long overdue step to advance the peace process and to work towards a lasting agreement,” he said, adding that the move is in the “best interest of the United States of America and the pursuit of peace between Israel and the Palestinians.”
Congress passed act to accept Jerusalem as Israel capital in 1995
Trump’s decision and his instruction that the State Department begin the long process of moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem drew a storm of criticism from Middle East and European leaders.
The European Union’s top diplomat, Federica Mogherini, made clear at a meeting of officials in Brussels that the continent’s leaders see the move as a threat.
“A way must be found through negotiations to resolve the status of Jerusalem as a future capital of both states,” she said as she stood next to Secretary of State Tillerson.
Tillerson attempted to calm fears ahead of the President’s announcement.
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“The President is very committed to the Middle East peace process,” he said.
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the nation’s capital an “important step toward peace.”
World reacts after President Trump formally recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s capital
Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas said in a televised statement that Trump’s decision “is a declaration of withdrawal from the role it has played in the peace process.”
The Hamas terrorist group called for a “day of rage” in protest.
Trump’s decision breaks from the America’s traditional efforts to remain neutral while Israel’s control of Jerusalem has been contested for decades.
“We cannot solve our problems by making the same failed assumptions and repeating the same failed strategies of the past. All challenges old challenges demand new approaches,” Trump said, citing the Jerusalem Embassy Act, which passed Congress in 1995, but Trump’s predecessors utilized a loophole to waive it.
It recognizes Jerusalem as the capital, calls for it to remain an undivided city and requires the transfer of the embassy.
“It would be folly to assume that repeating the exact same formula would now produce a different or better result,” Trump said.
Trump’s Jerusalem proclamation is long overdue
Jerusalem includes the holiest ground in Judaism as well as Islam’s third-holiest shrine and major Christian sites, making it one of the most contested cities in the region.
President Trump visited the Old City of Jerusalem, stopping at several holy sites, during a Middle East trip in May.
The walled area is in East Jerusalem, which Israel captured from Jordan in the Six Day War. The annexation of the area by Israel is not recognized by most countries.
Palestinians see East Jerusalem as the future capital of an independent state.
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Arab and Muslim leaders warned of violence and protests ahead of Trump’s announcement.
In Gaza, hundreds of Palestinian protesters burned American and Israeli flags.
Jordan’s King Abdullah II told Trump that it would have “dangerous repercussions on the stability and security of the region,” according to a statement released by the palace.
Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, one of several Arab leaders to speak to Trump this week, warned the U.S. leader Tuesday that declaring Jerusalem as Israel’s capital “would constitute a flagrant provocation to all Muslims, all over the world.”
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Egypt, the first Arab nation to sign a major peace deal with Israel in 1979, condemned the announcement, calling it a violation of international resolutions on the city’s status.
Leaders of major Christian denominations in the Holy Land have appealed to Trump to rethink his decision.
They said in a letter that it will mean “increased hatred, conflict, violence and suffering in Jerusalem and the Holy Land.”
The letter asks Trump to walk toward “more love and a definitive peace” by continuing to recognize the international status of Jerusalem.
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And they say that “any sudden changes would cause irreparable harm.”
Pope Francis called for wisdom and prudence” to prevail to avoid further conflict.
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