Washington: President Donald Trump Thursday recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, reversing decades of US and international policy on the holy city, which many Arab leaders warned could trigger an upheaval in the already volatile Middle East.
The controversial decision, which was promised by Trump during his 2016 campaign and appeals to his right-wing base, could lead to massive protests in the Middle East and elsewhere, Arab leaders warned.
“I have determined it is time to officially recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel,” Trump said in his live televised address, which was watched by millions of people across the globe including from the Middle East.
He also directed the State Department to immediately begin the process of construction of a US Embassy in Jerusalem.
“Today we finally acknowledge the obvious: That Jerusalem is Israel’s capital. This is nothing more or less than recognition of a reality. It is also the right thing to do.
It’s something that has to be done,” the President said.
At the same time, Trump reiterated his commitment to the two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict.
He said the US still wanted to see a peace agreement and would not take a position on “the specific boundaries of the Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem or the resolution of contested borders”.
“The United States remains deeply committed to helping facilitate a peace agreement that is acceptable to both sides.
I intend to do everything in my power to help forge such an agreement.
“There will of course be disagreement and dissent regarding this announcement, but we are confident that ultimately, as we work through these disagreements, we will arrive at a place of greater understanding and cooperation,” he said in an apparent reference to the tough road ahead.
This was one of his major campaign promises.
In his address, Trump said that his predecessors have not been able to take a decision in this regard despite a decision by Congress more than two decades ago.
“In 1995, Congress adopted the Jerusalem Embassy Act, urging the federal government to relocate the American Embassy to Jerusalem and to recognise that city as Israel’s Capital.
“This Act passed Congress by an overwhelming bipartisan majority, and was reaffirmed by a unanimous vote of the Senate only six months ago,” Trump said.
He said that Jerusalem is not just the heart of three great religions, but it is now also the heart of one of the most successful democracies in the world.
“Over the past seven decades, the Israeli people have built a country where Jews, Muslims, Christians and people of all faiths are free to live and worship according to their conscience and beliefs,” Trump said.
In his remarks, Trump recognised that a specific boundary of sovereignty in Jerusalem is highly sensitive and subject to final status negotiations.
Recognising the status of Jerusalem as a highly-sensitive issue, the President, at the the same time, said he does not think the peace process is aided by ignoring the simple truth that Jerusalem is home to Israel’s legislature, the Supreme Court, President and Prime Minister.
Trump recognised that the specific boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem are subject to final status negotiations between the parties and reaffirmed the United States’ support for the status quo at the Temple Mount, also known as Haram al Sharif.
Reiterating his commitment to achieving a lasting peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians, Trump said he is optimistic that peace can be achieved.
Delaying the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel has not helped achieve peace over the past two decades, he said.
Trump also said that he is prepared to support a two- state solution to the dispute between the Israelis and Palestinians, if agreed to by the parties.
In his remarks, Trump said that he has done something which his predecessors could not.
“For over 20 years, every previous American president has exercised the law’s waiver, refusing to move the US embassy to Jerusalem, or to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital city.
“Presidents issued these waivers under the belief that delaying the recognition of Jerusalem would advance the cause of peace. Some say they lacked courage, but they made their best judgements based on facts as they understood them at the time. Nevertheless, the record is in,” he said.
“After more than two decades of waivers, we are no closer to a lasting peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians,” Trump said.
It would be folly to assume that repeating the exact same formula would now produce a different or better result, the President said.
“Therefore, I have determined that it is time to officially recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. While previous presidents have made this a major campaign promise, they failed to deliver. Today, I am delivering.
“This is a long overdue step to advance the peace process and to work towards a lasting agreement. Israel is a sovereign nation with the right, like every other sovereign nation, to determine its own capital. Acknowledging this as a fact is a necessary condition for achieving peace,” Trump said.
He said that this decision is not intended, in any way, to reflect a departure from America’s strong commitment to facilitate a lasting peace agreement.
“We want an agreement that is a great deal for the Israelis, and a great deal for the Palestinians. In the meantime, I call on all parties to maintain the status quo at Jerusalem’s holy sites, including the Temple Mount, also known as Haram al-Sharif,” Trump added. PTI