Trump’s Jerusalem Decision: World Leaders Warn Move Could Destabilize Region

Donald Trump is expected to overturn decades of U.S. policy in the Middle East and recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital Wednesday, according to senior U.S. officials.

Trump called Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and other Arab leaders to inform them of his intentions Tuesday.

Israel claimed Jerusalem as its indivisible capital after the annexation of East Jerusalem following the 1967 war with Syria, Egypt and Jordan.

GettyImages-886187366 Israel claimed Jerusalem as its indivisible capital after the annexation of East Jerusalem following the 1967 war with Syria, Egypt and Jordan. But allies of the U.S. in the Middle East and Europe have warned Trump’s decision to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem could fuel unrest. THOMAS COEX/AFP/Getty Images

Palestinians have long regarded East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state, and according to the 1993 Israeli-Palestinian peace accords, its final status is meant to be discussed in the latter stages of talks.

Israel’s claims to sovereignty over Jerusalem have never been recognized by the international community, and all countries maintain their embassies in Tel Aviv.

Trump will tell the State Department to begin the process of relocating the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, U.S. officials said. 

Here’s how world leaders reacted to Trump’s decision.

Palestinian and Israeli reactions 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has yet to comment, but Naftali Bennett, Israel’s minister of education, called on other countries to follow the U.S.’s lead.

“Jerusalem has been and always will be the eternal capital,” he told the The Jerusalem Post Diplomatic Conference.

Abbas warned Trump in a phone call of the “dangerous consequences such a decision would have to the peace process and to the peace, security and stability of the region and of the world,” the Palestinian president’s spokesman said in a statement.

Ismail Haniya, the leader of Hamas, has called for protests to be held Friday in response to the decision, which he said would “[ignite] the spark of rage against the occupation.”

Middle East

Leaders elsewhere in the Middle East were strongly critical of the move.

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, ruler of one the U.S.’s closest Middle Eastern allies, told Trump in a phone call, “Any American announcement regarding the situation of Jerusalem prior to reaching a permanent settlement will harm peace talks and increase tensions in the area.”

In a statement carried by Saudi Arabia’s SPA news agency, Salman called the move a “dangerous step” that is “likely to inflame the passions of Muslims around the world.”

Trump Saudi Trip Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud walks with U.S. President Donald Trump during a reception ceremony in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on May 20. King Salman called the U.S. Embassy’s move to Jerusalem a “dangerous step.” Bandar Algaloud/Courtesy of Saudi Royal Court/Handout via REUTERS

The leaders of fellow U.S. regional allies Jordan and Egypt also criticized the move.

Jordan’s King Abdullah II told Trump that such a decision would have “dangerous repercussions on the stability and security of the region.”

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi also cautioned Trump against “taking measures that would undermine the chances of peace in the Middle East.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened to cut diplomatic ties with Israel as news of Trump’s decision emerged.

“Jerusalem is a red line for Muslims,” said Erdogan. “We implore the U.S. once again: You cannot take this step.”

In Iran, where tensions between the government and Trump administration have escalated in recent months, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said the move was the result of the U.S.’s “incompetence and failure.”

Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul-Gheit described the decision as a “dangerous measure that would have repercussions” across the entire region, in a specially convened meeting of leaders in Cairo Tuesday.

Europe

European leaders have also warned that the move risks destabilizing the region.

Federica Mogherini, the European Union’s top diplomat, said, “Any action that would undermine” efforts to create two separate states for the Israelis and the Palestinians “must absolutely be avoided.”

France’s President Emmanuel Macron expressed similar views, and reaffirmed the importance of negotiations, “particularly those relating to the establishment of two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security with Jerusalem as their capital,” according to a statement.

Germany’s foreign minister, Sigmar Gabriel, said in Brussels that the U.S. move “does not calm a conflict, rather it fuels it even more,” and that such a move “would be a very dangerous development.” “It’s in everyone’s interest that this does not happen,” Gabriel said.

Boris Johnson, the British foreign secretary, said he viewed reports of Trump’s planned announcement “with concern.”

Other leaders also warned of negative repercussions. 

Pope Francis I called for the “status quo” to be respected in a statement early Wednesday. Dialogue would only come through “recognizing the rights of all people” in the region, he said.

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