By Mohammad Ghaderi

Trump’s al-Quds move: A fireball

December 6, 2017

The United States President Donald Trump will recognize al-Quds (Jerusalem) as Israel's capital on Wednesday despite intense Arab, Muslim and European opposition to a move that would upend decades of the U.S. policy and risk potentially violent protests.

Trump will instruct the State Department to begin the multi-year process of moving the American embassy from Tel Aviv to the holy city, U.S. officials said on Tuesday. It remains unclear, however, when he might take that physical step, which is required by the U.S. law but has been waived on national security grounds for more than two decades.

The officials said numerous logistical and security details, as well as site determination and construction, will need to be finalized first. Because of those issues, the embassy is not likely to move for at least 3 or 4 years, presuming there is no future change in the U.S. policy.

To that end, the officials said Trump will delay the embassy move by signing a waiver, which is required by the U.S. law every six months. He will continue to sign the waiver until preparations for the embassy move are complete.

Hamas: Israel has no land to claim ‘capital’

The Palestinian resistance movement of Hamas says Israel has “no land” and naturally no right to designate “a capital” city. The announcement came shortly before the United States President Donald Trump's expected declaration of the recognition of al-Quds (Jerusalem) as Israel’s “capital.”

Hamas Spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri tweeted the remark on Wednesday, shortly after Trump reportedly “informed” Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas of his intention to relocate the American embassy from Tel Aviv to al-Quds (Jerusalem).

Zuhri, the Hamas spokesman, added that such recognition “would harm Israel” and ultimately bring it “regret.”

Crossing every red line

Elsewhere, on Tuesday, Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh warned the United States that the potential relocation of the U.S. embassy would cross “every red line.”

In a statement addressed to world Muslim leaders, Haniya said, “Moving the American embassy to Jerusalem is a dangerous escalation and provides cover for the extremist government of [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu to carry out its plan to Judaize the city of Jerusalem.”

In a separate statement, Hamas called for Palestinians to “make Friday a day of rage against the occupation, rejecting moving the American embassy to Jerusalem and recognizing it as the capital of the Zionist entity.” It called on young people in the West Bank to rise up and “respond to the American decision that targets our Jerusalem in every possible way.”

Palestinians call days of rage over U.S. al-Quds plan

The developments follow as protests have broken out in the Gaza Strip in response to Trump's expected decision to recognize al-Quds (Jerusalem) as Israel's capital, as Palestinian leaders called for three days of rage against the move.

Hundreds of Palestinians took to the streets in Gaza City on Wednesday, carrying banners denouncing Trump, hours ahead of his impending declaration that would also see the U.S. embassy move from Tel Aviv to al-Quds.

The declaration, which is expected at 18:00 GMT on Wednesday, comes amid global condemnation of the decision.

Elsewhere, in Lebanon's capital, Beirut, hundreds of demonstrators gathered in the Palestinian refugee camp Bourj el-Barajneh to protest against Trump.

Jerusalem remains at the core of the perennial Israel-Palestine conflict as Palestinians want Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state.

Trump’s pictures set ablaze

People, meanwhile, rallied in the city of Bethlehem (Beit Lahm) in the south of the Israeli occupied West Bank to protest the prospect, setting fire to pictures of Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Abbas has also warned Trump of the “dangerous consequences of such a decision.”

Israel alerts forces

Meanwhile, Netanyahu said Israeli forces had been placed on alert for a potential escalation of the already-tense situation in the Palestinian territories.

Hundreds of Israeli settlers reportedly traveled to the city of Nablus in the northern West Bank to visit Joseph’s Tomb on Wednesday. Violent confrontations were also reported around the site between Palestinian youths and the Israeli forces, who fired sound bombs and teargas canisters at the protesters.

Separately, Palestinian al-Aqsa television network said dozens of Israeli forces had stormed the village of Yabod in the city of Jenin in the northern West Bank, raiding houses and beating residents.

Palestinian Shehab News Agency cited American media outlets as reporting that the U.S. had deployed Marines to its embassies in the region to avoid incidents following the potential announcement.

Chorus of international outcry

Various world leaders have also raised concern about the controversial American plan.

The United Nations

Most recently, the United Nations (UN) envoy for the Middle East negotiation process said on Wednesday that al-Quds’ future status had to be negotiated between Israelis and Palestinians and warned of the repercussions of any action over the city.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has “consistently warned against any unilateral action that would have the potential to undermine the two-state solution”, his spokesman, Stephane Dujarric, told reporters in New York.
 
“The [UN] secretary general has spoken many times on this issue... and he has said that we all have to be very careful with the actions we take because of the repercussions of these actions,” Nickolay Mladenov also told a conference. “The future of Jerusalem is something that needs to be negotiated with Israel, with the Palestinians, sitting side by side directly in negotiations.”

The EU

The European Union warned of the “serious repercussions” of the prospect.

Federica Mogherini, the European Union's top diplomat, said “any action that would undermine” peace efforts to create two separate states for the Israelis and the Palestinians “must absolutely be avoided.”

Arab League

Arab League chief Ahmed Aboul-Gheit warned the United States not to take any measures that would change al-Quds current legal and political status.

Aboul-Gheit spoke on Tuesday during a meeting in Cairo of Arab League representatives gathered to discuss Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital. He said the possible U.S. decision is be a “dangerous measure that would have repercussions” across the entire Mideast region.

He also urged the Trump administration to reconsider the issue.

Jordan and the Palestinians request Arab League meeting

The regional Arab League grouping said Jordan and the Palestinians had requested an emergency meeting of the body’s foreign ministers to discuss the U.S. scheme.

The meeting is likely to be convened on Saturday, a diplomatic source told AFP.

“President Abbas warned of the dangerous consequences such a decision would have to the peace process and to the peace, security and stability of the region and of the world,” Nabil Abu Rudeina, the Palestinian president's spokesperson, said in a statement after Trump's call.

Echoing Abbas' comments, Jordan's King Abdullah II told Trump that such a decision would have “dangerous repercussions on the stability and security of the region”, according to a statement released by the palace.

The king also warned the U.S. president of the risks of any decision that ran counter to a final settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict based on the creation of an independent Palestinian state with its capital in East Jerusalem.

“Jerusalem is the key to achieving peace and stability in the region and the world,” the statement said, adding that an embassy move would inflame Muslim and Christian feelings.

King Abdullah also called Abbas and said they had to both work together to “confront the consequences of this decision”.

Jordan had also said earlier that it planned to convene an emergency meeting of the OIC on how to face the “dangerous” consequences of Trump’s decision.

The state of Jordan has been the custodian of all Muslim and Christian sites in al-Quds (Jerusalem) since 1994.

Palestinian resistance groups

Resistance groups in Gaza called on the Palestinian Liberation Organization to withdraw its recognition of Israel in response to Trump's expected move.

“At a time when the city of Jerusalem is subjected to systematic Judaization and our people are exposed to the suffering from repression, displacement and exile comes the American decision to declare the city of Jerusalem as the capital of [Israel] in violation of all international conventions and norms,” the factions said in a statement.

Iran

Iranian Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said the U.S. move was “because of their incompetence and failure”.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has also warned the U.S. against relocating its Israel embassy from Tel Aviv to al-Quds (Jerusalem), saying the “illegal” move would further destabilize Palestine and the region.

During a phone conversation with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday, Rouhani called on Islamic states to join hands in opposing the “dangerous” move by the administration of Trump.

Turkey

In the harshest reaction so far, Turkey threatened to cut ties with Israel if the U.S. carried out the recognition.

Later, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called a summit of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Istanbul on December 13 to discuss the U.S. plan.

Erdogan called for the meeting “in order to display joint action among Islamic countries,” presidential Spokesman Ibrahim Kalin told reporters in the Turkish capital.

“Jerusalem is a red line for Muslims,” said Erdogan. “We implore the U.S. once again: You cannot take this step.”

Ankara currently holds the chairmanship of the OIC.

Russia

The Kremlin said Russia was concerned that the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian authorities could be aggravated further by the embassy plan.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov added however that “we would not discuss decisions that have not been taken yet.”

China

China warned that Trump’s plan could fuel tensions in the region.

“We are concerned about the possible escalation of tensions,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a regular news briefing. “All relevant parties should bear regional peace and tranquility in mind, be cautious in words and deeds, avoid impacting the foundation for the settlement of the issue of Palestine, and avoid causing new confrontation in the region.”

Britain

Hours ahead of Trump's expected announcement, British Prime Minister Theresa May said she intended to speak to the U.S. president about the status of al-Quds (Jerusalem), adding that the fate of the city should be determined through negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

"Jerusalem should ultimately form a shared capital between the Israeli and Palestinian states," said May.

May told parliament on Wednesday she planned to “speak to President Trump about this matter,” but she declined to criticize his plan.

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said he was concerned about reports that Trump would recognize al-Quds (Jerusalem) as Israel’s “capital.”

“Let’s wait and see what the president says exactly. But, you know, 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,” he told reporters in Brussels.

The U.S.

Key national security advisers — including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis — have urged caution, according to the officials, who said Trump has been receptive to some of their concerns.

However, some U.S. officials said that Trump “remains committed to achieving a lasting peace agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians and is optimistic that peace can be achieved”.

One official said that Trump's decision “doesn't change the status quo with respect to the holy sites and other sensitive issues”.

Germany

Germany’s foreign minister warned that any U.S. move toward such recognition would be dangerous and could deepen the Middle East conflict.

Sigmar Gabriel said such a move “does not calm a conflict, rather it fuels it even more” and “would be a very dangerous development.”

Gabriel told reporters at NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) headquarters in Brussels that, “It’s in everyone’s interest that this does not happen.”

 France

French President Emmanuel Macron also said he was concerned about the potential relocation during a phone call with Trump.

The Pope

Pope Francis called for al-Quds’ “status quo” to be respected.

The pontiff expressed his hope for “peace and prosperity” for the Palestinian people during a scheduled meeting with a Palestinian delegation of religious and intellectual leaders.

Egypt

In a statement, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi also cautioned Trump against “taking measures that would undermine the chances of peace in the Middle East”.

“The Egyptian president affirmed the Egyptian position on preserving the legal status of Jerusalem within the framework of international references and relevant UN resolutions,” the statement said.

Saudi regime Salman

Following a separate phone conversation with Trump, the House of Saud regime King Salman also told the U.S. president “that any American announcement regarding the situation of Jerusalem prior to reaching a permanent settlement will harm peace talks and increase tensions in the area”.

A statement by state-run news agency SPA quoted the king as saying that the kingdom supported the Palestinian people and their historic rights and asserted that “such a dangerous step is likely to inflame the passions of Muslims around the world due to the great status of Jerusalem and the al-Aqsa mosque”.

Syria

The Syrian foreign ministry said: “[The move] is the culmination of the crime of usurping Palestine and displacing the Palestinian people.”

Trump's al-Quds move to please friends

Moving the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to al-Quds (Jerusalem), and recognizing the holy city as Israel's capital, was a promise Trump made during his election campaign last year.

Wednesday's announcement will thrill key financial donors like Las Vegas casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, who reportedly gave $25m to groups backing Trump ahead of the 2016 election. In April, the Politico news website reported that Sheldon had expressed anger at Trump over his failure to fulfill the al-Quds (Jerusalem) pledge.

The shift is likely to boost Trump's popularity with his core, right-wing evangelical base.

The measure has broad support among American lawmakers too. The al-Quds (Jerusalem) Embassy Act, passed by the U.S. Congress in 1995, calls for the U.S. embassy to be moved to Jerusalem.

Trump's predecessors, however, have repeatedly invoked an inbuilt waiver every six months, citing security concerns.  

In June, Trump also delayed the relocation, while instructing his son-in-law Jared Kushner to begin an effort at restarting long-stalled peace talks between the Palestinians and Israelis.

This week, the six-month deadline passed without Trump renewing the waiver.

 Saudi-U.S. behind the curtain deal

Meanwhile, The New York Times on Sunday reported that the U.S. and the House of Saud regime are backing a peace plan that gives Israel full-control over Jerusalem.

Citing unnamed Palestinian, Arab and European sources, the newspaper said Saudi regime Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), who is very close to Kushner, presented the plan to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in November.

Both the U.S. and the Saudi regime denied the report.

 Al-Quds

Al-Quds (Jerusalem) includes the holiest ground in Judaism. But it's also home to Islam's third-holiest shrine and major Christian sites, and forms the combustible center of the Israeli-Arab conflict. Any perceived harm to Muslim claims to the city has triggered volatile protests in the past, both in the Holy Land and across the Muslim world.

After occupying the city's eastern part in the 1967 War, Israel annexed the territory, and proclaimed it as its “eternal, undivided capital.” The Palestinians, however, see East al-Quds (Jerusalem) as the capital of their future state.

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