Monday

20th Jan 2020

Trump to ignore EU appeals on Jerusalem

The US has confirmed it will move its embassy to Jerusalem, ignoring EU warnings that this would "fuel" the Arab-Israeli conflict.

US officials told press in an off-the-record briefing in Washington on Tuesday (5 December) that president Donald Trump would announce his decision in a White House briefing room at 7PM Brussels time on Wednesday.

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  • Trump promised the embassy move in his election campaign last year (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

He aims to say he US recognises Jerusalem as Israel's capital due to ancient history and current facts on the ground.

He is to add that the US will move its embassy there from Tel Aviv in about six months.

But he also plans to say, for the first time, that he endorses the two-state solution, which is espoused by the EU and the UN and which promises the creation of a future Palestinian state.

"For a long time the United States' position held that ambiguity [on Jerusalem] … somehow advanced the prospects of peace," a US official said, according to Haaretz, an Israeli newspaper.

"The physical location of the embassy is not material to a peace deal ... So having tried this for 22 years, an acknowledgement of reality seems like an important change," the US official said.

Trump's decision comes despite warnings by Germany, France, EU officials, and Arab and Muslim leaders that the Jerusalem move would make the conflict worse.

Recognising Jerusalem "as the capital of Israel does not calm a conflict, rather it fuels it even more," German foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel said at a meeting of Nato powers with the US secretary of state in Brussels on Tuesday.

He called Trump's plan "a very dangerous development".

"It's in everyone's interest that this does not happen," he said.

Gabriel echoed French president Emmanuel Macron and EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini.

Macron's office said in a statement on Tuesday that he "reaffirmed that the status of Jerusalem must be resolved through peace negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians".

He also restated the EU and UN position that Israel and Palestine must share "Jerusalem as their capital" in future.

Risk of violence

The immediate risk of violence was underlined by US instructions to diplomatic staff in Jerusalem and in the West Bank to only "conduct essential travel and with additional security measures" on Wednesday.

Palestinian politicians called for protests that they entitled "three days of rage" to start after Trump speaks.

Mahmud Abbas, the Palestinian president, said Trump's move would have "dangerous repercussions … on the (long-stalled) peace process".

The leaders of Egypt, Iran, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey voiced similar concern.

King Abdullah of Jordan, the historic custodian of the Al Aqsa mosque, a Muslim sacred site in Jerusalem, called on Muslims and Christians to "resist" the US move.

Hamas, a militant Palestinian group that controls the Gaza strip, called on "Palestinian people to revive the intifada if these unjust decisions on Jerusalem are adopted".

Loss of faith

The last full-scale intifada, or Palestinian uprising, in 2000, claimed 3,000 Palestinian and 1,000 Israeli lives.

A wave of violence two years ago, known as the Knife Intifada, claimed 235 Palestinian and 38 Israeli lives as well as the lives of two US citizens.

Both of the events were triggered by Jewish overtures to change the status of Al Aqsa.

An internal EU report in 2016 also said poor living conditions for Palestinians and the loss of hope in a two-state solution were at the "root" of the unrest.

Israel conquered East Jerusalem and the West Bank in 1967.

It has helped more than 700,000 Jewish settlers to move onto occupied Palestinian land in the past 50 years.

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