Trump Gives Arab Leaders the News They've Dreaded

Tell them he plans to recognize Jerusalem as capital, though it's not official yet
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 5, 2017 2:18 PM CST
Trump Braces Arab Leaders for Volatile Decision on Israel
In this 2003 photo, Israeli border police guard the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv.   (AP Photo/Eitan Hess-Ashkenazi, File)

President Trump spoke to Arab leaders on Tuesday and told them he's about to break with longstanding US policy and recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital, reports Reuters. The controversial news comes not from the White House but from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Jordan’s King Abdullah, who say they tried unsuccessfully to talk Trump out the decision. They warned that the policy shift, which would mean moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, will not only jeopardize peace talks but unleash violence in the region. Details and developments:

  • The timing: Trump was expected to announce the decision Wednesday, reports the New York Times. However, he was also expected to sign a waiver delaying the embassy move for six months, given the logistics involved. Moving the embassy would fulfill a campaign promise. Abbas, meanwhile, is reaching out to world leaders including Vladimir Putin and Pope Francis, hoping they can change Trump's mind, per the Jerusalem Post.

  • The history: No issue in the Mideast is as sensitive as the status of Jerusalem, observes the Guardian. Israel lays claim to all of the city as its "eternal" capital, though the international community does not recognize that sovereignty and the Palestinians want East Jerusalem as capital of a future state. In its own primer, the CBC notes that Jerusalem has sites sacred to Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.
  • Arab backlash: The Washington Post rounds up mounting criticism in the Muslim world. An adviser to Abbas, referring to the latest peace negotiations being led by Jared Kushner, complains that "there is no deal of the century that starts with destroying the essence of a two-state solution.” Turkey, meanwhile, warned that it may sever ties with Israel.
  • All alone: If the US goes ahead with the plan to move its embassy to Jerusalem, Haaretz notes that it will be the only country there. That wasn't always the case: Jerusalem once hosted 16 embassies, and the newspaper traces the various conflicts that have resulted in the current number being zero.
  • Criticism: An editorial in the Los Angeles Times maintains that the move "is both unnecessary as a sign of this country's support for Israel—which is rock-solid—and needlessly provocative." It will strengthen Trump's alliance with Benjamin Netanyahu, but that will only reduce hopes for peace negotiations. "The only justification for such a provocative step is political: to allow Trump to say that he (sort of) fulfilled a campaign promise. That's not good enough."
  • Encouragement: At Ynetnews, Arsen Ostrovsky argues that the proposed move by Trump is long overdue. "Enough is enough! The United States and the international community must no longer remain hostage to Palestinian threats, extortion and intimidation."
(More Jerusalem stories.)

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