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Trump Move To Recognize Jerusalem As Israel's Capital Triggers Criticism, But No Violence

A view of Jerusalem's Old City, seen from the Mount of Olives

WASHINGTON -- U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel unleashed a torrent of criticism from around the world but did not immediately provoke violence as some world leaders feared.

Only Israel welcomed the announcement on December 6 as "courageous and just," while U.S. allies from Germany and Saudi Arabia to Britain and the European Union condemned it and said it will make negotiating peace in the region more difficult.

"This about-face is already a big problem," said German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, telling public broadcaster ARD that it will likely throw "fuel on the fire" and lead to a "new escalation in the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians."

Palestinians have hoped to locate their own capital in east Jerusalem as part of a much-discussed two-state peace settlement with Israel -- a possibility that Palestine's top negotiator said on December 6 was "destroyed" by Trump's announcement.

Most nations do not recognize Israeli sovereignty over the entire city, which includes sites considered holy by Muslims, Jews, and Christians.

Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas said the United States can no longer play the role of peace broker in light of what he called Trump's "reprehensible" decision. which he said "undermines all peace efforts."

Saudi Arabia, the Arab kingdom that Trump embraced as a close ally in his first trip abroad earlier this year, called Trump's move "irresponsible" and said it will cause a "drastic regression in the efforts to move the peace process forward."

Eight members of the UN Security Council -- mostly U.S. allies including Britain, France, Egypt, Italy, and Sweden -- called for an emergency meeting on December 8 to discuss the move.

"I have consistently spoken out against any unilateral measures that would jeopardize the prospect of peace for Israelis and Palestinians," said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

"In this moment of great anxiety, I want to make it clear: There is no alternative to the two-state solution. There is no Plan B," he said.

Trump Recognizes Jerusalem As Israel's Capital
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Trump in his December 6 speech said the move was merely a "recognition of reality."

"Today we finally acknowledge the obvious - that Jerusalem is Israel's capital," he said. "Israel is a sovereign nation with the right like every other sovereign nation to determine its own capital."

Trump ordered the State Department to begin preparations to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in a process experts say could take three to four years.

The announcement reversed a decades-long U.S. policy that the city’s status must be decided in negotiations with Palestinians.

Trump said that he still intends “to do everything in my power to help force” a peace agreement acceptable to both Israelis and Palestinians.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed Trump's declaration as “historic” and urged other countries to follow the United States by moving their embassies to Jerusalem.

Palestinians holds posters of U.S. President Donald Trump during a protest in the West Bank City of Ramallah on December 6.
Palestinians holds posters of U.S. President Donald Trump during a protest in the West Bank City of Ramallah on December 6.

Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist group, urged Arabs and Muslims to "undermine" the United States in the region and called Trump's move "flagrant" aggression against the Palestinian people.

French President Emmanuel Macron said during a visit to Algeria that Trump’s decision was “regrettable” and that his country did not support it, adding that the final status of Jerusalem should be decided by Israelis and Palestinians.

Macron and other European leaders, fearing an outbreak of violence, called for calm from all sides, saying that violence must be avoided.

British Prime Minister Theresa May called Trump's decision "unhelpful in terms of prospects for peace in the region."

The European Union also warned of the potential adverse effects the move could have on peace prospects.

"The aspirations of both parties must be fulfilled and a way must be found through negotiations to resolve the status of Jerusalem as the future capital of both states," said EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini.

Iranian state media quoted the Foreign Ministry as saying it "seriously condemns" the U.S. decision.

In a Twitter statement, Pakistan's Foreign Minister Khwaja Asif called the U.S. move "an affront to Palestinians and the Muslim world...practically burying the two-state solution."

Egypt and Jordan accused Trump of violating international law with his decision, which the Turkish Foreign Ministry called “irresponsible.”

Reuters reported that several hundred people gathered outside the U.S. Consulate in Istanbul in a largely peaceful protest.

In a sign that the U.S. State Department may have been anticipating a violent reaction, just before Trump's announcement it sent a cable to all U.S. diplomatic posts for officials to defer nonessential travel to Israel, Jerusalem, and the West Bank until December 20, Reuters reported, citing an official document.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, AFP, and dpa