Thu, Dec 07, 2017 - Page 1 News List

Global concern mounts on Trump’s Jerusalem plan

REALITY CHECK:While the US president views recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital as a ‘historic’ and ‘modern’ reality, Western and Arab leaders warn of conflict

AFP, JERUSALEM

The Dome of the Rock and Jerusalem’s Old City are pictured on Monday.

Photo: Reuters

Global concern yesterday mounted ahead of an anticipated announcement by US President Donald Trump to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, with Pope Francis joining a list of leaders warning of the potential for dangerous fallout.

The move by Trump, set to come in a speech later yesterday, would upend decades of careful US policy and ignore dire warnings of a historic misstep that could trigger a surge of violence in the Middle East.

A senior administration official said that Trump would make the announcement at 1pm from the White House.

“He will say that the United States government recognizes that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“He views this as a recognition of reality, both historic reality and modern reality,” the official said.

Plunging further into a decades-long dispute over a city considered holy by Jews, Muslims and Christians, Trump will also order plans to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

“It will take some time to find a site, to address security concerns, design a new facility, fund a new facility and build it,” the official said.

“It will be a matter of some years; it won’t be months, it’s going to take time,” the official said.

The status of Jerusalem is a critical issue in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with both sides claiming the city as their capital.

In a frantic series of calls, the leaders of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, the EU, France, Germany and Turkey all warned Trump against the move.

Anticipating protests, US government officials and their families have been ordered to avoid Jerusalem’s Old City and the West Bank.

“I cannot silence my deep concern over the situation that has emerged in recent days,” Pope Francis said.

“Jerusalem is a unique city, sacred for Jews, Christians and Muslims,” he said, a day after speaking by telephone with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

The pontiff added that maintaining Jerusalem’s status quo was important “in order to avoid adding new elements of tension to an already volatile world that is wracked by so many cruel conflicts.”

“We view the reports that we have heard with concern, because we think that Jerusalem obviously should be part of the final settlement between the Israelis and the Palestinians, a negotiated settlement,” British Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Boris Johnson said as he arrived for a NATO meeting in Brussels.

China warned the plan could fuel tensions in the region and Turkey said it risked igniting a “fire” in the Middle East.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s spokesman said he had called for a summit of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the main pan-Islamic body, in Istanbul on Wednesday next week “to display joint action among Islamic countries” over Jerusalem.

Jordan and the Palestinians also called for an emergency meeting of the Arab League in Cairo, with a diplomatic source saying it was likely to be convened on Saturday.

However, in a surprise, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu refrained from commenting on the issue in his first speech since Trump’s plan was confirmed.

Trump’s move comes close to fulfilling a campaign promise, and will delight his political donors and the conservative and evangelical base so vital for the embattled president.

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