Trump recognizes al-Quds as Israel's capital, reversing longtime U.S. policy

Trump recognizes al-Quds as Israel's capital, reversing longtime U.S. policy
Thu Dec 7, 2017 08:50:11

President Donald Trump on Wednesday reversed decades of U.S. policy and recognized al-Quds as the capital of Israel, imperiling Middle East peace efforts and upsetting the Arab world and Western allies alike.

(reuters) -- Trump announced his administration would begin a process of moving the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv to al-Quds, a step expected to take years and one that his predecessors opted not to take to avoid inflaming tensions.

The status of al-Quds - home to sites holy to the Muslim, Jewish and Christian religions - is one of the biggest obstacles to reaching a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed Trump’s announcement as a “historic landmark,” but other close Western allies of Washington such as Britain and France were critical.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said the United States abdicated its role as a mediator in peace efforts, and Palestinian secular and Islamist factions called for a general strike and rallies on Thursday to protest.

The international community does not recognize Israeli sovereignty over the entire city, believing its status should be resolved in negotiations. No other country has its embassy in al-Quds.

Trump’s decision fulfills a campaign promise and will please Republican conservatives and evangelicals who make up a sizeable portion of his domestic support.

“I have determined that it is time to officially recognize "Jerusalem" as the capital of Israel,” Trump said in a speech at the White House. “While previous presidents have made this a major campaign promise, they failed to deliver. Today, I am delivering.”

Trump’s decision risks further inflaming a region already grappling with conflict in Syria, Iraq and Yemen.

Protests broke out in areas of Jordan’s capital, Amman, inhabited by Palestinian refugees, and several hundred protesters gathered outside the U.S. consulate in Istanbul.

The United States is asking Israel to temper its response to Trump’s announcement because Washington expects a backlash and is weighing the potential threat to U.S. facilities and people, according to a State Department document seen by Reuters.

Israel considers "Jerusalem" (al-Quds) its eternal and indivisible capital and wants all embassies based there. Palestinians want the capital of an independent state of theirs to be in the city’s eastern sector, which Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war and annexed in a move never recognized internationally.

Netanyahu said any peace deal with Palestinians must include al-Quds as Israel’s capital. That would be a non-starter for Palestinians in any negotiations if it meant the entire city would be under Israeli control.

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