Dec 5, 2017

World leaders warn against naming Jerusalem Israel's capital

Jerusalem's Old City is seen through a door with the shape of star of David. Photo: Oded Balilty / AP

President Trump's expected recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital has caused worldwide criticism warning the change could halt the peace process and damage relations across the Middle East. Israeli security forces are preparing for any possible response in the region.

Why it matters: President Trump is in the midst of phone calls to leaders in the Middle East regarding the anticipated announcement. Trump called Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, PM Netanyahu and King of Jordan Abdullah. Minutes before the phone call with Trump, Abbas spoke on the phone with French president Emanuel Macron who lobbied Trump yesterday against any unilateral recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

What they're saying:

  • German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel: "U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel will be counterproductive & will only worsen the crisis. A solution to the issue of Jerusalem should be achieved through negotiations," per Barak Ravid of Israel's Channel 10 News and an Axios contributor.
  • Arab League chief Abul Gheit: Such a move would "nourish fanaticism and violence."
  • Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag: It would be a "major catastrophe" that would "completely destroy the fragile peace process" and lead to new conflicts.
  • Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has reportedly contacted other world leaders and urged them to intervene. "Such a US decision would destroy the peace process and drag the region into further instability," he said. Abbas' diplomatic adviser also said Palestinian leadership would "stop contacts" with the U.S. if Trump moves forward.
  • Saudi Arabian Foreign Ministry: The move is "in contradiction of the principle of not affecting final status negotiations, and contradicts international resolutions that emphasize the historical and firm rights of the Palestinian People regarding Jerusalem, which cannot be changed, nor can an attempt to impose a new reality upon it be made. This step, if taken, will constitute a fundamental change, and an unwarranted shift in the United States' impartial position, at a time when the world looks to the United States of America to work on achieving achieving the desired progress in the peace process."
  • EU's Frederica Mogherini: "Any action that would undermine [a two-state solution between Israel, Palestinians] must be avoided."
  • Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan: U.S. recognition is a 'red line' for Muslims, and such a step would lead Ankara to cut off all diplomatic ties with Israel.
  • Israeli officials: "Jerusalem is the capital of the Jewish people for 3000 years and the capital of Israel for 70 years whether Erdogan likes it or not," per Ravid.
  • Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett: "At the end of the day it is better to have a united Jerusalem than Erdogan's sympathy."

Why it's happening now per Eurasia Group's Alex Kliment:

  • Trump is under fire at home and Republicans – particularly Evangelical Christians – have always sought this move.
  • Israel's PM Benjamin Netanyahu is also in domestic trouble, facing serious corruption allegations that have sparked protests in recent weeks. US recognition of Jerusalem as the capital plays well with his base.
  • Elsewhere in the region, Sunni Arab officials have warned that this move will provoke violence and regional instability, but our guess is that when it comes down to it the key Sunni Arab powers in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE care more about countering Iran – with a vigorously anti-Tehran U.S. President – than they do about Palestinian aspirations.

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