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US Jerusalem recognition 'kiss of death'

06 December 2017,Wednesday, 19:00



Palestinian protesters burn pictures of US President Donald Trump at the manger square in Bethlehem on December 5, 2017. Photo: BBC

Palestinian protesters burn pictures of US President Donald Trump at the manger square in Bethlehem on December 5, 2017. Photo: BBC

An expected announcement by President Donald Trump that the US will become the first country to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital has been dubbed a "kiss of death" for the Middle East peace process by the Palestinians, reports BBC.

But an Israeli minister urged other countries to follow the US lead.

Mr Trump is expcted to confirm the decision in a speech later.

He will also approve moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, US officials say.

This could, however, be delayed because of logistical and security issues, as well as the need to find a location.

The prospect of Jerusalem recognition has prompted global reaction ranging from concern to alarm.

The Palestinians' representative to the UK, Manuel Hassassian, told the BBC that the changes to US policy on Jerusalem amounted to a "kiss of death" for the two-state solution in peace efforts and were like a "declaration of war".

"This is the last straw that will break the camel's back," he said. "I don't mean war in terms of conventional war, I mean war in terms of diplomacy."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has yet to comment officially, but Education Minister Naftali Bennett described it as a "big step towards regional peace" and said other countries should move their embassies too.

He added that it would force Israel's "enemies" to accept that Jerusalem would never be divided.

But Pope Francis called for the "status quo" to be respected. Dialogue would only come through "recognising the rights of all people" in the region, he said.

And UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said he viewed the reports of what Mr Trump would say "with concern", echoing comments from France and the European Union.

Israel has always regarded Jerusalem as its capital, while the Palestinians want East Jerusalem to be the capital of a future Palestinian state.

In recognising Jerusalem as Israel's capital, the US becomes the first country to do so since the foundation of Israel in 1948.

What is so contentious about Jerusalem's status?

The issue goes to the heart of Israel's conflict with the Palestinians, who are backed by the Arab and wider Islamic world.

The city is home to key religious sites sacred to Judaism, Islam and Christianity, especially in East Jerusalem.

Israel annexed the sector from Jordan after the 1967 Middle East war and regards the entire city as its indivisible capital.

According to the 1993 Israel-Palestinian peace accords, its final status is meant to be discussed in the latter stages of talks.

Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem has never been recognised internationally and all countries maintain their embassies in Tel Aviv.

Since 1967, Israel has built a dozen settlements, home to about 200,000 Jews, in East Jerusalem. These are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.

In recognising Jerusalem as Israel's capital, the US could reinforce Israel's position that settlements in the east are valid Israeli communities.

What other reaction has there been?

  • Saudi Arabia, an ally of the US, called the new policy "a flagrant provocation to Muslims"
  • Hamas leader Ismail Haniya said recognition crossed "all red lines"
  • China warned against escalating tensions in the Middle East
  • Jordan's King Abdullah said the decision would "undermine efforts to resume the peace process"
  • Egypt's President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi urged Mr Trump "not to complicate the situation in the region"
  • Turkey called for a summit of Muslim countries in December to discuss the developments
  • Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said "Muslims must stand united against this major plot"

 

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