By Atiya Riffat
Donald Trump is telling leaders from across the Middle East that he intends to declare Jerusalem the capital of Israel, an explosive move that will break from 50 years of US foreign policy.
Trump reportedly also told King Abdullah of Jordan and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas by phone that he plans to relocate the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. That move won’t be imminent, however.
Right-wing Israeli leaders, by contrast, didn’t try to disguise their happiness. In a message to Trump, Naftali Bennett, the head of the Jewish Home party, said he wanted to thank “you from the bottom of my heart for your commitment and intention to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.”
The sharply divergent reactions highlight the fact that there is almost no other issue in the Middle East as contentious as the future of Jerusalem.
The international community considers East Jerusalem occupied territory. But that half the city also contains sites holy to all three major monotheistic religions, including the Western Wall, the most sacred site in the world for Jews, and Haram al-Sharif (the Noble Sanctuary), a sacred site for Muslims.
The Palestinians would like to officially divide the city and make East Jerusalem the capital of a future Palestinian state. The Israelis, to put it mildly, disagree — and the right-wing government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has long made clear that it wouldn’t even consider making concessions over Jerusalem.
The decades-long political fight over the future of the city is what makes Trump’s new moves so momentous — and so dangerous.
Trump promised to move the US embassy to Jerusalem. He hasn’t.
As a presidential candidate, Donald Trump promised to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which he called “the eternal capital of the Jewish people.”And then he didn’t.
His campaign promises notwithstanding, in June he signed a six month wavier keeping the US embassy in Tel Aviv, blocking the Jerusalem Ambassy Act which would, otherwise, automatically move the embassy to Jerusalem.
“No one should consider this step to be in any way a retreat from the President’s strong support for Israel,” the White House said in a statement at the time. “President Trump made this decision to maximize the chances of successfully negotiating a deal between the Israelis and Palestinians.”