‘Jerusalem is and always will be the capital of Palestine’

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Israeli forces disperse Palestinian protestors outside Damascus Gate in occupied Jerusalem’s Old City, Thursday. US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital sparked a Palestinian general strike and a call for a new intifada as fears grew of fresh bloodshed in the region. — AFP

Saudi Gazette report

SAUDI ARABIA led the global community to criticize US President Donald Trump to recognize occupied Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. In a statement soon after Trump’s decision late Wednesday, the Royal Court said the Kingdom followed it ”with deep sorrow” and warned of “dangerous consequences.” The statement described the move as “a big step back in efforts to advance the peace process,” and urged the US administration to reverse its decision and adhere to international will.

“Al-Quds (Jerusalem) is and will always be the capital of Palestine,” a Saudi media analyst told Saudi Gazette. “The Trump decision only causes further chaos and generates anti-American sentiments. He has sown the wind”.

Similarly, Arabs and Muslims across the Middle East condemned it as an incendiary move in the volatile region and Palestinians said Washington was abandoning its leading role as a peace mediator.

The European Union and UN also voiced alarm at Trump’s decision and its repercussions for any chances of reviving Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking.

Major US allies came out against Trump’s reversal of decades of US and broad international policy on Jerusalem.

France rejected the “unilateral” decision while appealing for calm in the region. Britain said the move would not help peace efforts and Jerusalem should ultimately be shared by Israel and a future Palestinian state. Germany said Jerusalem’s status could only be resolved on the basis of a two-state solution.

Israel, by contrast, applauded Trump’s move. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a pre-recorded video message that it was “an important step toward peace” and it was “our goal from Israel’s first day”.

Trump upended decades of US policy in defiance of warnings from around the world that the gesture risks aggravating conflict in the tinderbox Middle East.

The status of Jerusalem is home to sites holy to the Muslim, Jewish and Christian faiths. Its eastern sector was captured by Israel in a 1967 war and annexed in a move not recognized internationally. Palestinians claim East Jerusalem for the capital of an independent state they seek.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Jerusalem was the “eternal capital of the State of Palestine” and that Trump’s move was “tantamount to the United States abdicating its role as a peace mediator.”

The Palestinian group Hamas, which has dominated Gaza since soon after Israel ended a 38-year occupation in 2005, urged Palestinians to abandon peace efforts and launch a new uprising against Israel. Trump had committed a “flagrant aggression against the Palestinian people”. Hamas urged Arabs and Muslims to “undermine US interests in the region” and to “shun Israel”.

Protests broke out in parts of Jordan’s capital Amman inhabited by Palestinian refugees, with youths chanting anti-American slogans. In the Baqaa refugee camp on Amman’s outskirts, hundreds roamed the streets denouncing Trump and urging Jordan to scrap its 1994 peace treaty with Israel. “Down with America...America is the mother of terror,” they chanted.

The Israeli military said it was reinforcing troops in the occupied West Bank, deploying several new army battalions and putting other forces on standby, describing the measures as part of its “readiness for possible developments”.

Protests so far have been scattered and largely non-violent. But dozens of Palestinians gathered at two points on the Gaza border fence with Israel and threw rocks at soldiers on the other side. Inside Gaza, thousands of Palestinians rallied, some chanting: “Death to America! Death to the fool Trump!” and burning tires.

Egypt, which forged the first Arab peace deal with Israel in 1979, brushed off Trump’s decision and said it did not change Jerusalem’s disputed legal status.

Jordan said Trump’s action was “legally null” because it consolidated Israel’s occupation of East Jerusalem.

Lebanese President Michel Aoun said Trump’s Jerusalem decision was dangerous and threatened the credibility of the United States as a broker of Middle East peace. He said the move would put back the peace process by decades and threatened regional stability and perhaps global stability.

Turkey said Trump’s move was “irresponsible”. “We call upon the US Administration to reconsider this faulty decision which may result in highly negative outcomes and to avoid uncalculated steps that will harm the multicultural identity and historical status of Jerusalem,” the Turkish foreign ministry said in a statement.

Iraq’s top Shiite cleric Ali Al-Sistani condemned the decision and called on the Ummah, or Islamic nation, to unite its efforts and reclaim Jerusalem. “This decision is condemned and decried, it hurt the feelings of hundreds of millions of Arabs and Muslims,” his office said in a statement.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said the US was trying to destabilize the region and start a war to protect Israel’s security.

In Southeast Asia, the leaders of Muslim-majority Indonesia and Malaysia denounced Trump’s action. “This can rock global security and stability,” Indonesian President Joko Widodo, leader of the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation, told a news conference in which he called for the US to reconsider its decision.

British Prime Minister Theresa May disagreed with Trump’s embrace of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital before a final-status agreement as this was unlikely to help nurture peace in the region, her spokesman said.

However, May’s spokesman welcomed Trump’s stated wish to end the conflict and his acknowledgement that the final status of Jerusalem, including boundaries within the city, must be subject to negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.

French President Emmanuel Macron said he did not support Trump’s “unilateral” move.

“The status of Jerusalem is a question of international security that concerns the entire international community. The status of Jerusalem must be determined by Israelis and Palestinians in the framework of negotiations under the auspices of the United Nations,” Macron told reporters in Algiers.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said there was no alternative to a two-state solution and Jerusalem was a final-status matter only to be settled through direct talks. “I have consistently spoken out against any unilateral measures that would jeopardize the prospect of peace for Israelis and Palestinians,” Guterres said. “I will do everything in my power to support the Israeli and Palestinian leaders to return to meaningful negotiations.”

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said Jerusalem must be the capital of both Israel and a future Palestinian state.

“The European Union has a clear and united position. We believe the only realistic solution to the conflict between Israel and Palestine is based on two states and with Jerusalem as the capital of both,” Mogherini told a news conference in Brussels.

— With input from Agencies


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