Jerusalem - what is happening?

Donald Trump to recognise Jerusalem as Israel capital

A general view of Jerusalem's old city shows the Dome of the Rock in the compound known to Muslims as Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount.

A general view of Jerusalem's old city shows the Dome of the Rock in the compound known to Muslims as Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount.   | Photo Credit: REUTERS

President Donald Trump will recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital on Wednesday despite intense Arab, Muslim and European opposition to a move that would upend decades of the U.S. policy and risk potentially violent protests.

Mr. Trump will instruct the State Department to begin the multi-year process of moving the American embassy from Tel Aviv to the holy city, U.S. officials said on Tuesday. It remains unclear, however, when he might take that physical step, which is required by law but has been waived on national security grounds for more than two decades.

The officials said numerous logistical and security details, as well as site determination and construction, will need to be finalised first. Because of those issues, the embassy is not likely to move for at least three or four years, presuming there is no future change in U.S. policy.

To sign a waiver

To that end, the officials said Mr. Trump will sign a waiver delaying the embassy move, which is required by the law every six months. He will continue to sign the waiver until preparations for the embassy move are complete.

The officials said recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital will be an acknowledgement of “historical and current reality” rather than a political statement. The city’s physical and political borders would not be compromised. They noted that almost all of Israel’s government agencies and parliament are in Jerusalem, rather than Tel Aviv, where the U.S. and other countries maintain embassies.

People look on and use their mobile phones as scouts march and play music in celebration of Mawlid al-Nabi in front of the Dome of the Rock on the compound known to Muslims as Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount, in Jerusalem's Old City.

People look on and use their mobile phones as scouts march and play music in celebration of Mawlid al-Nabi in front of the Dome of the Rock on the compound known to Muslims as Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount, in Jerusalem's Old City.   | Photo Credit: REUTERS

 

The officials spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity on Tuesday because they were not authorised to publicly preview Mr. Trump’s Wednesday announcement. Their comments mirrored those of officials who spoke on the issue last week.

The declaration is a rhetorical volley that could have its own dangerous consequences. The U.S. had never endorsed the Jewish state’s claim of sovereignty over any part of Jerusalem and had insisted its status be resolved through Israeli-Palestinian negotiation.

Security warning to Americans

The mere consideration of Mr. Trump changing the status quo sparked a renewed U.S. security warning on Tuesday. The U.S. consulate in Jerusalem ordered 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.

Mr. Trump, as a presidential candidate, repeatedly promised to move the U.S. embassy. U.S. leaders have routinely and unceremoniously delayed such a move since former President Bill Clinton signed a law in 1995 stipulating that the U.S. must relocate its diplomatic presence to Jerusalem unless the commander-in-chief issues a waiver on national security grounds.

Key national security advisers, including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, have urged caution, according to the officials, who said Mr. Trump had been receptive to some of their concerns.

The concerns are real, as Mr. Trump’s decision could be viewed as the country discarding its longstanding neutrality and siding with Israel at a time that President’s son-in-law Jared Kushner has been trying to midwife a new peace process into existence. Mr. Trump, too, has spoken of his desire for a “deal of the century” that would end Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Israeli leadership for “undivided capital”

The U.S. officials, along with an outside adviser to the administration, said they expected a broad statement from Mr. Trump about Jerusalem’s status as the “capital of Israel.” The President wasn’t planning to use the phrase “undivided capital,” according to the officials. Such terminology is favored by Israeli leadership, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and would imply Israel’s sovereignty over east Jerusalem, which the Palestinians seek for their own future capital.

Jerusalem includes the holiest ground in Judaism. But it’s also home to Islam’s third-holiest shrine and major Christian sites, and forms the combustible center of the Israeli-Arab conflict. Any perceived harm to Muslim claims to the city has triggered volatile protests in the past, both in the Holy Land and across the Muslim world.

Within the Trump administration, officials on Tuesday fielded a flood of warnings from allied governments.

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Printable version | Aug 11, 2020 7:23:45 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/donald-trump-to-recognise-jerusalem-as-israel-capital/article21271681.ece

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