After more than a year of discussions, fears, promises and assessments – U.S. President Donald Trump delivered a landmark speech in Washington Wednesday, recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel.
As expected, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed the announcement, while Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas declared that the U.S. can no longer act as a mediator between Israel and the Palestinians. Israeli security forces are on alert for a possible escalation in Jerusalem and in the West Bank.
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Alongside the recognition, the speech included three central points: Trump refrained from explicitly stating that the two-state solution is the only path to a peace agreement, only saying "the United States would support a two-state solution if agreed to by both sides," echoing comments he made in the past at a press conference alongside Netanyahu.
The president also announced that he has instructed the relevant teams to begin planning the relocation of the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, yet did not state when such a move will take place. Finally, Trump stressed that American recognition of Jerusalem is not tantamount to a position on the issue of Israeli borders and sovereignty in Jerusalem. Those, he said, will be decided upon in negotiations.
"It is time to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel," Trump said at the start of his speech. "This is nothing more or less than a recognition of reality. It is also the right thing to do. It's something that has to be done."
Trump added however that "we are not taking a position of any final status issues, including the specific boundaries of the Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem or the resolution of contested borders. Those questions are up to the parties involved. The United States remains deeply committed to helping facilitate a peace agreement that is acceptable to both sides."
Trump called for to "maintain the status quo at Jerusalem's holy sites, including the Temple Mount, also known as Haram al-Sharif." According to the president, "with today's action, I reaffirm my administration's long standing commitment to a future of peace and security for the region. We are confident that ultimately, as we work through these disagreements, we will arrive at a peace."
Despite declaring that he has ordered the U.S. State Department to prepare for the relocation of the embassy to Jerusalem, Trump signed the waiver Wednesday delaying the move for six months. "In 1995, Congress adopted the Jerusalem Embassy Act urging the federal government to relocate the American Embassy to Jerusalem and to recognize that that city, and so importantly, is Israel's capital," Trump said. "This act passed Congress by an overwhelming bipartisan majority and was reaffirmed by unanimous vote of the Senate only six months ago." And yet, he added, "after more than two decades of waivers, we are no closer to a lasting peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. It would be folly to assume that repeating the exact same formula would now produce a different or better result."
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lauded Trump, calling it a "historic day." Netanyahu said that any peace agreement with the Palestinians must include Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and added that there will be no change in the status of the city's holy sites.
"Jerusalem has been the focus of our hopes, our dreams, our prayers for three millennia," said the prime minister. "Jerusalem has been the capital of the Jewish people for 3,000 years. It's so rare to be able to speak of new and genuine milestones in the glorious history of this city, yet today's pronouncement by President Trump is such an occasion," said Netanyahu.
In exclusive comments to Haaretz, Saeb Erekat, chief Palestinian peace negotiator responded to U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital.
"President Trump has delivered a message to the Palestinian people: the two-state solution is over. Now is the time to transform the struggle for one-state with equal rights for everyone living in historic Palestine, from the river to the sea."
Earlier, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas rejected Trump's speech on Jerusalem, saying it encourages the occupation and construction of Israeli settlements. Abbas said that the move drives the U.S. further away from its role as a mediator and sponsor in peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians and undermines any attempt to achieve a two-state solution. He said Trump's decision violates international law and encourages the occupation and construction of Israeli settlements.
On Wednesday, Muslims across the Middle East warned of disastrous consequences as a result of Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital.
Israel's security services are on high alert Thursday morning, with possible scenarios including mass protests as well as rock and firebomb throwing in familiar flashpoints such as army checkpoints and on roads. Another danger is an escalation of "lone-wolf" attacks such as stabbings and assaults with improvised weapons.
Trump's speech was met with mixed reactions in the U.S. Congress and by the Jewish community in the U.S. While members of the Republican Party overwhelmingly expressed support for the move, Democrats were split between those who congratulated Trump and those who called it a dangerous and irresponsible action.
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