US President Donald Trump has overturned decades of US policy, and caused fury in the Middle East, by saying that the US recognises Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
The ownership of Jerusalem is a fraught topic – both Israel and Palestine claim it as state territory – and it has not been officially recognised internationally as held by either country, until now.
As Reuters explains, “Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of their future independent state, whereas Israel has declared the whole city to be its ‘united and eternal’ capital”.
But Trump said that recognising Jerusalem as Israeli territory was a long overdue step.
“We cannot solve our problems by making the same failed assumptions and repeating the same failed strategies of the past,” he said. “I have determined that it is time to officially recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.”
Trump said that he would move the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, as Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his country was grateful to Trump for the recognition.
This is a historic day. Jerusalem has been the capital of Israel for nearly 70 years. Jerusalem has been the focus of our hopes, our dreams, our prayers for three millennia. Jerusalem has been the capital of the Jewish people for 3,000 years. Thank you, @realDonaldTrump! ???????????????? pic.twitter.com/mWCUpUMpiC
— Benjamin Netanyahu (@netanyahu) December 6, 2017
But Palestine’s President Mahmoud Abbas said that the decision disqualified the US as a peace broker in the Middle East. He called Jerusalem the “eternal capital of the State of Palestine”, as other Palestinian leaders raged over the decision and Palestinians took to the streets to protest.
Hamas leader Ismail Haniya told Al Jazeera that Trump’s decision as a “flagrant aggression”.
“This decision is an uncalculated gamble that will know no limit to the Palestinian, Arab and Muslim reaction,” he said to the news outlet.
Countries ranging from the UK and France to Saudi Arabia denounced Trump’s decision as jeopardising any chance of peace between Israel and Palestine. Turkey had previously warned that such a move would be crossing a “red line” for the world’s Muslims, while the Arab League said that it would bring on “catastrophe” in the region.
But Jewish groups in the US celebrated the announcement, with one taking out a full-page newspaper advertisement to say thank you to the president.
The ABC explains the contentious background of Jerusalem’s ownership, which dates back to a resolution made after World War II by the United Nations to create a state for Jews displaced by the German regime. The resolution partitioned Palestine, at the time under British control, into two separate zones – one for Jews and one for Arabs.
“The United Nations, in its 1947 plan on partition, resolved to place Jerusalem under a ‘permanent international regime’ administered by the UN, meaning neither the Israelis or the Palestinians could claim the city as their capital.
“That remains the UN position, even though Israel captured the old city and East Jerusalem from Jordan during the 1967 Six-Day War.”