US President recognises Jerusalem as capital of Israel, promises to move US embassy

The President of United States on 6 December 2017 recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, keeping with his long overdue campaign promise. Trump has also announced the plan of relocating the US embassy, which is currently based in Tel Aviv, to Jerusalem, a move that is being opposed by many nations across the world including some of America’s closest allies.

Dec 7, 2017 16:08 IST
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The President of United States on 6 December 2017 recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, keeping with his long overdue campaign promise.

Trump has also announced the plan of relocating the US embassy, which is currently based in Tel Aviv, to Jerusalem, a move that is being opposed by many nations across the world including some of America’s closest allies.

Trump made the announcement through a live television address from the White House. Citing a 1995 law, the Jerusalem Embassy Act, compelling the president make the move absent national security risks, Trump said the time had come to recognise what everyone already knows to be true. "Jerusalem is the capital the Jewish people established in ancient times," he said. “Today Jerusalem is the seat of Israel's government,” he added.

He also directed the State Department to immediately begin the process of construction of US embassy in Jerusalem.

The International community including the Arab world and countries such as France, Germany, Britain feel that Trump’s decision may have violent repercussions and that the future of the Israeli-Palestinian issue must be determined through direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians themselves.

Trump stated that US too supports such a negotiated settlement and is very much in favour of a two-state solution, provided that it is agreed to by both the sides.

"We want an agreement that is a great deal for the Israelis and a great deal for the Palestinians," he explained.
Further, Trump stated his actions do not determine the specific boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in the city and said that those would be subject to final status negotiations between the parties.

Who is saying what?

What Israel says – That Jerusalem is its undivided and eternal capital

What Palestinians say – A peace agreement must deliver them a sovereign state with a capital of its own in Jerusalem’s eastern districts.

Donald Trump – We are not taking a position on the final status of the issue.

Nikki Haley (US envoy to UN) – The administration would not be “taking sides” on the fate of East Jerusalem.

UN Secretary General – Jerusalem is a final status issue that must be resolved in final status negotiations between the two parties. In this moment of great tension, I want to make it clear there is no alternative to the two-state solution. There is no Plan B.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Trump’s decision on Jerusalem as a 'historic', courageous and just decision.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on the other hand rejected Trump's claim that his move was actually a step towards peace and stated that with this decision, the US had relinquished its historic role of a peace mediator."It's an attempt to change our history, and it will not succeed," he said."It's a Palestinian city– an Arab city, a Christian city and a Muslim city,” Abbas argued.

International Community

France's president, Emmanuel Macron called the decision "regrettable" and said the status of Jerusalem was not for one country to decide, but a matter of international security, of consensus and of law.

Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May characterized the move as ‘unhelpful’ to the prospects for peace in the region. She also stated that the British Embassy to Israel is based in Tel Aviv and they have no plans to move it.

Egypt – The nation refused to recognise the decision and warned of dire consequences.

Turkey – It threatened to cut off ties with Israel and the State Department's office for embassy security warned of planned protests in all of its major cities.

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India's reaction to Trump’s decision

The spokesperson of India’s Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement that India's position on Palestine is independent and consistent and it is shaped by our views and interests, and not determined by any third country.

 US President recognises Jerusalem as capital of Israel

Israeli-Palestinian conflict

The conflict began in mid-20th century. Its origins can be traced to Jewish immigration and sectarian conflict in Mandatory Palestine between Jews and Arabs.

Despite a long-term peace processes, Israelis and Palestinians have failed to reach a final peace agreement.

Key Issues between both include mutual recognition, borders, security, water rights, and control of Jerusalem, Israeli settlements, Palestinian freedom of movement and Palestinian right of return.

Problem of Jerusalem

• The control of Jerusalem is a particularly delicate issue, as both Israel and Palestine lay claims to the city.

• The city is home to sites that are holy to Jews, Muslims and Christians, which is one of the core issues in the conflict-

- For Jews, Jerusalem is the holiest city as it is the former location of the Jewish temples on the Temple Mount.

- For Muslims, the city is the site of Mohammad's Night Journey to heaven and the al-Aqsa mosque.

- For Christians, it is the site of Jesus' crucifixion and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

• The Israeli government has been centered in the new city of West Jerusalem since Israel's founding in 1948.

• During the six-day-war, also known as 1967 Arab–Israeli War that was fought between Israel and the neighboring states of Egypt, Jordan and Syria, Israelis annexed the eastern part of Jerusalem, including the Old City.

• In 1980, Israel issued a new law stating that "Jerusalem, complete and united, is the capital of Israel."

• While Israel wants to be recognised as the full sovereign of Jerusalem, Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as the capital of the Palestinian state.

 US President recognises Jerusalem as capital of Israel

Two –state solution

• The solution involves creation of an independent Palestinian state alongside the state of Israel.

• In 2007 several polls revealed that a majority of Israelis and Palestinians preferred the two-state solution over any other solution as a means of resolving the conflict.

• The two parties engaged in direct negotiation include the Israeli government, currently led by Benjamin Netanyahu and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), currently headed by Mahmoud Abbas.

• The state of Palestine is currently recognised by 136 of the United Nation's member states and it became an observer state at the UN in 2012.

• Israel and a number of other countries however, do not recognise Palestine as a state.

Though Israel declared Jerusalem as its capital, it is not recognised internationally. Hence, the embassies of all the nations in Israel are based either in or close to Tel Aviv.

Trump however, had promised to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem during his presidential election campaign. Though the US Congress had passed the Jerusalem Embassy Act in 1995, calling on the US to move its embassy to Jerusalem, officially recognising it is as the capital of Israel, none of the previous US Presidents took the call.

The law has a clause that allows the Presidents to postpone its application for six months. So, former US Presidents, Bill Clinton, George W Bush and Barack Obama kept signing re-ratifying the clause every six months.Though Trump renewed the waiver in June 2017, he decided to not renew it this time.

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