With Vice President Mike Pence looking on, U.S. President Donald Trump gives a statement on Jerusalem, during which he recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House in Washington, U.S. December 6, 2017 With Vice President Mike Pence looking on, U.S. President Donald Trump gives a statement on Jerusalem, during which he recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House in Washington, U.S. December 6, 2017

Trump's Jerusalem decision: key questions answered

Wed, Dec. 6, 2017
CAIRO – 6 December 2017: Following a whole day of cautious waiting across the world, United States President Donald Trump has officially recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel during a televised speech from the White House, Washington D.C. on Wednesday.

"Through all of these years, presidents representing the United States have refused to acknowledge Jerusalem as the Israeli capital. Today, we acknowledge that Jerusalem is the Israeli capital. It is the right thing to do. It is something that has to be done,” Trump stated.

With this decision, long awaited by the Israeli government, Trump fulfilled his campaign promise to move the embassy to Jerusalem.

Many international analysts have expected that Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel would serve as the last nail in Trump's coffin in terms of the peace process between Palestinians and the Israelis.

Egypt Today presents a look at some of the key questions surrounding Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

When was the law to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem passed?

In 1995, Congress passed a law that called for an embassy to be established in Jerusalem. Every president since Bill Clinton has signed a waiver twice a year that cites national security concerns, out of fear that it would alienate Arab allies and damage the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

When did Trump sign a waiver to postpone the U.S. Embassy’s move?

Trump issued a similar waiver in June, but he missed a Monday deadline for such a waiver this week.

U.S. sources said, “If he signs the wavier this week, that will not be indicative of him reversing his opinion; it will just be a question of timing. It will be when, not if.”

What effect will Trump's declaration have?

Jerusalem's status is central to the Palestinian-Israeli peace talks, and the change in U.S. policy carries deep symbolic meaning, as it will be seen as backing Israeli sovereignty over the city, something the international community does not recognize.

Palestinian leaders have warned that any change to the status quo would mean the end of the peace process.

U.S. officials, however, insist 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."

Since the news about Trump’s decision waived, protests have erupted in the Gaza Strip and Palestinian leaders have called for "three days of rage" against the move.

Over the past 20 years, the Jerusalem issue has been at the heart of much of the violence between Palestinians and Israelis, including the Intifada, or uprising, in 2000.

How did Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas respond to Trump’s decision?

“Earlier, President Mahmoud Abbas received a telephone call from U.S. President Donald Trump in which he notified the President (Abbas) of his intention to move the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem," spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh said in a statement.

The statement did not say whether Trump elaborated on the timing of such a move.

"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," Abu Rudeineh said.

Reuters reported that Abbas will deliver a televised speech after listening to President Trump's speech.

What was the Arab leaders’ stance on Trump’s decision?

Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi cautioned Trump against “taking measures that would undermine the chances of peace in the Middle East.”

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, ruler of one of the U.S.’s closest Middle Eastern allies, told Trump in a phone call, “Any American announcement regarding the situation of Jerusalem prior to reaching a permanent settlement will harm peace talks and increase tensions in the area.”

In a statement through Saudi Arabia’s SPA news agency, Salman called the move a “dangerous step” that is “likely to inflame the passions of Muslims around the world.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened to cut diplomatic ties with Israel as news of Trump’s decision emerged.

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

How did international newspapers react to Trump’s decision?

International newspapers on Wednesday had mixed reactions to Donald Trump’s expected decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and announce that he is moving the American embassy there from Tel Aviv.

By upending nearly seven decades of American foreign policy, the U.S. president is “potentially destroying his efforts to broker peace between Israel and the Palestinians,” The New York Times reported.

Trump’s decision was described in the American newspaper as a high-risk foray into the thicket of the Middle East, driven not by diplomatic calculations but by a campaign promise.

Under the title, “Don’t move U.S. embassy to Jerusalem,” the San Francisco Chronicle reported that even if Trump was a brilliant negotiator, unilaterally altering U.S. policy regarding Jerusalem to accord with the Israeli position would unnecessarily antagonize a billion Muslims and undercut the United States’ ability to broker a future peace deal.

“It is also exceptionally unwise to risk another conflagration in the Middle East when it is already engulfed in a bloody conflict and instability from Syria to Yemen and tensions are rising between Saudi Arabia and Iran,” stated the San Francisco Chronicle.

“Of all the issues at the heart of the enduring conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, none is as sensitive as the status of Jerusalem. Donald Trump’s approach to it threatens to smash a long-standing international consensus in a disruptive and dangerous way,” British newspaper The Guardian stated.

Canadian and Chinese national newspapers went on to describe Trump’s intentions as “catastrophic”, raising questions about the White House’s ultimate strategy and intentions.
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