On Wednesday, Arabs and Muslims across the Middle East condemned the U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital as an incendiary move in a volatile region and Palestinians said Washington was abandoning its leading role as a peace mediator.
The European Union and United Nations also voiced alarm at President Trump’s decision to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem and its repercussions for any chances of reviving Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking.
The international community does not recognize Israeli sovereignty over the whole of Jerusalem and no other country has its embassy there.
Major U.S. allies came out against Trump’s reversal of decades of U.S. and broad international policy on Jerusalem.
Mainly France and Britain have been critical of Trump’s move. Pope Francis has called for Jerusalem’s status quo to be respected, while China and Russia have expressed concern.
France rejected the “unilateral” decision while appealing for calm in the region. Britain said the move would not help peace efforts and that Jerusalem should ultimately be shared by Israel and a future Palestinian state. Germany said Jerusalem’s status could only be resolved on the basis of a two-state solution.
The EU’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, said Jerusalem must be the capital of both Israel and a future Palestinian state.
The United Nations Security Council is likely to meet on Friday to discuss the U.S. decision, diplomats said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Tayyip Erdogan spoke by phone on Thursday and expressed serious concern about the decision, the Kremlin said on Thursday.
Trump’s decision has raised doubts about his administration’s ability to follow through on a peace effort that his son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, has led for months, aimed at reviving long-stalled negotiations.
Only Netanyahu applauded Trump’s move
Only Israel applauded Trump’s move. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a pre-recorded video message that it was “an important step towards peace” and it was “our goal from Israel’s first day.”
He added that any peace accord with the Palestinians would have to include Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and he urged other countries to follow Trump’s example.
Trump upended decades of U.S. policy in defiance of warnings from around the world that the gesture risks aggravating conflict in the tinderbox Middle East.
Jerusalem is home to sites holy to the Muslim, Jewish and Christian faiths. Its eastern sector was captured by Israel in a 1967 war and annexed in a move not recognized internationally. Palestinians claim East Jerusalem for the capital of an independent state they seek.
Israel deems Jerusalem its eternal and indivisible capital dating to antiquity, and its status is one of the thorniest barriers to a lasting Israeli-Palestinian peace.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, in a pre-recorded speech, said Jerusalem was the “eternal capital of the State of Palestine” and that Trump’s move was “tantamount to the United States abdicating its role as a peace mediator.”
The last round of U.S.-brokered talks foundered in 2014 over several issues, including Israeli settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank and Israeli accusations of Palestinian incitement to violence and refusal to recognize it as a Jewish state.
Hamas calls for Palestinian uprising
On Thursday, Hamas urged Palestinians to abandon peace efforts and launch a new uprising against Israel.
“We should call for and we should work on launching an intifada (Palestinian uprising) in the face of the Zionist enemy,” Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said in a speech in Gaza.
Haniyeh called on Abbas to withdraw from peacemaking with Israel and on Arabs to boycott the Trump administration. Abbas said on Wednesday the United States had abdicated its role as a mediator in peace efforts.
“We have given instruction to all Hamas members and to all its wings to be fully ready for any new instructions or orders that may be given to confront this strategic danger that threatens Jerusalem and threatens Palestine,” Haniyeh said.
Friday: “A day of rage” in the West Bank and Gaza
All Palestinian factions called for a “Day of Rage” on Friday, and on Thursday, a wave of protest in the West Bank and Gaza brought clashes between Palestinians and Israeli troops. At least 31 people were wounded by Israeli gunfire and rubber bullets and live bullets, medics said.
Medics said 11 people had been hit by live bullets and 20 by rubber bullets in the Thursday unrest. One was in critical condition.
Some protesters threw rocks at soldiers and others chanted, “Death to America! Death to the fool, Trump!”
On Friday’s “Day of Rage”, rallies and protests are expected near Israeli-controlled checkpoints in the West Bank and along the border with Gaza.
Friday prayers at the Muslim shrine of Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem could also be a flashpoint.
Fatah calls for peaceful protests
Naser Al-Qidwa, an aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and a senior official in his Fatah party, urged Palestinians to stage protests but said they should be peaceful.
Angry Palestinians switched off Christmas lights at Jesus’ traditional birthplace in the West Bank town of Bethlehem and in Ramallah. A tree adorned with lights outside Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity, where Christians believe Jesus was born, and another in Ramallah, next to the grave of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, were plunged into darkness. All Palestinian factions called for a general strike and protest rallies at midday on Thursday.
Protests erupt in Jordan
Protests broke out in parts of Jordan’s capital Amman inhabited by Palestinian refugees, with youths chanting anti-American slogans. In the Baqaa refugee camp on Amman’s outskirts, hundreds roamed the streets denouncing Trump and urging Jordan to scrap its 1994 peace treaty with Israel.
“Down with America…America is the mother of terror,” they chanted.
Jordan said Trump’s action was “legally null” because it consolidated Israel’s occupation of East Jerusalem.
Saudi Arabia warns of “dangerous consequences”
The Saudi Royal Court issued a statement saying the kingdom followed “with deep sorrow” Trump’s decision and warned of “dangerous consequences of moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem.”
The statement described the move as “a big step back in efforts to advance the peace process” and urged the U.S. administration to reverse its decision and adhere to international will.
Lebanon: American credibility is at stake
Lebanese President Michel Aoun said Trump’s Jerusalem decision was dangerous and threatened the credibility of the United States as a broker of Middle East peace. He said the move would put back the peace process by decades and threatened regional stability and perhaps global stability.
Hezbollah: “Blatant aggression”
Lebanon’s Hezbollah group joined calls on Thursday for a new Palestinian uprising. Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah described in a televised speech Trump’s decision as a “blatant aggression” against the Arab and Muslim world
“We support the call for a new Palestinian intifada (uprising) and escalating the resistance,” Nasrallah said. “It is the biggest, most important and gravest response to the American decision.”
Nasrallah, who described Trump’s move as “a major historical injustice”, called for a mass protest in Beirut’s southern suburbs on Monday.
“The people of Palestine stand today at the first line of defense for Jerusalem and its shrines,” he added.
Nasrallah asked listeners around the region to confront the U.S. move and stand in solidarity with Palestinians. He appealed to Arab states to cut off any kind of diplomatic ties to Israel and to summon their U.S. ambassadors in formal protest.
Qatar: A dangerous escalation
Qatar’s foreign minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani, said Trump’s undertaking was a “death sentence for all who seek peace” and called it “a dangerous escalation.”
Turkey said Trump’s move was “irresponsible.”
“We call upon the U.S. administration to reconsider this faulty decision, which may result in highly negative outcomes and to avoid uncalculated steps that will harm the multicultural identity and historical status of Jerusalem,” the Turkish foreign ministry said in a statement.
Iran: Destabilizing the region
Iran “seriously condemns” Trump’s move as it violates U.N. resolutions on the Israel-Palestinian conflict, state media reported. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said earlier in the day that the United States was trying to destabilize the region and start a war to protect Israel’s security.
Indonesia and Malaysia denounce Trump’s action
In Southeast Asia, the leaders of Muslim-majority Indonesia and Malaysia denounced Trump’s action.
“This can rock global security and stability,” Indonesian President Joko Widodo, leader of the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation, told a news conference in which he called for the United States to reconsider its decision.
U.K.: Won’t help peace in the region
British Prime Minister Theresa May disagreed with Trump’s embrace of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital before a final-status agreement, as this was unlikely to help nurture peace in the region, her spokesman said.
France: We don’t support Trump’s unilateral move
French President Emmanuel Macron said he did not support Trump’s “unilateral” move.
“The status of Jerusalem is a question of international security that concerns the entire international community,” Macron told reporters in Algiers. “The status of Jerusalem must be determined by Israelis and Palestinians in the framework of negotiations under the auspices of the United Nations.
“France and Europe are attached to a two-state solution — Israel and Palestine — living side by side in peace and security within recognized international borders with Jerusalem the capital of both states,” he said.
U.N.: Unilateral measures jeopardize peace
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said there was no alternative to a two-state solution and that Jerusalem was a final-status matter only to be settled through direct talks.
“I have consistently spoken out against any unilateral measures that would jeopardize the prospect of peace for Israelis and Palestinians,” Guterres said. “I will do everything in my power to support the Israeli and Palestinian leaders to return to meaningful negotiations.”
Local and national reactions
Locally, Arab Americans took their objections to social media, condemning Trump’s decision and blaming spineless Arab and Muslim world leaders for their indifference and apparent weakness to confront the biased American policy against their people in the region and around the world. Many have changed their profiles to reflect a picture of Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa mosque with the status, “Jerusalem is the capital of Palestine.” The U.S. Palestinian Community Network called for an emergency rally in several cities, including Detroit, on Friday, Dec. 8 from 5 to 7 p.m.
The Detroit rally will take place at 1 Hart Plaza, in downtown Detroit.
Wayne County Commission Chairman Gary Woronchak issued a statement describing President Trump’s unilateral decision as a reckless move.
“The president of the United States has taken a sledgehammer to one of the world’s most delicate matters, and I add my voice to those of leaders in governments around the world who have condemned this reckless move,” Woronchak said. “This unnecessarily risks destabilization and the enflaming of tensions that could result in violence, while resolving nothing.
“While this president has tried to justify other ill-advised and controversial decisions as putting America first, his declaration on Jerusalem does not serve the best interests of the United States, but rather very narrow interests that do not further the prospects of a long-term solution between the Palestinian and Israeli people.”
Palestinian scholar and author Rashid Khalidi, the editor of the Journal of Palestine Studies, writes in palestinesquare.com that Jerusalem is undoubtedly the most important aspect of the entire Palestine question. It has been central to the identity of Palestinian Muslims and Christians as far back as the founding moments of both religions, and has become even more so as the conflict over Palestine has become fiercer.
“For someone such as me, whose family has lived in Jerusalem for hundreds of years, Trump’s announcement does not just mean that the U.S. has adopted the Israeli position that Jerusalem belongs exclusively to Israel. He has also retroactively legitimized Israel’s seizure and military occupation of Arab East Jerusalem during the 1967 war and its imposition of discriminatory laws on hundreds of thousands of Palestinians living there.”
Arab American Civil Rights League (ACRL)
The local civil rights group issued a statement strongly opposes Trump’s intervention on the status of Jerusalem.
“It’s unfortunate that President Trump, who claims that he wants peace in the Middle East, would do such a detrimental act to kill any chance of peace in that region of the world,” said ACRL founder Nabih Ayad. “The Trump administration has yet again shown total disregard to the Middle Eastern community and the consequences this move would have in the United States and around the world.”
Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC)
The Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), a national Muslim advocacy group based in Washington, DC., blasted Trump’s decision because it eliminates the possibility of the U.S. acting as a peace-broker and overturns decades of U.S. policy towards the region, including a longstanding position that Israeli-Palestinian grievances must be resolved through negotiations. He reversed 70 years of international consensus and many global leaders believe he derailed any peace initiative between the Israelis and Palestinians.
“In recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, Trump is fulfilling a campaign promise to this constituency at the expense of American interests, ” MPAC said in a statement.
U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison
U.S. Rep. Ellison (D-Minn.) issued the following statement in response to President Trump’s decision:
“President Trump’s decision impedes the Israel-Palestine peace process, jeopardizes the safety of U.S. personnel stationed abroad and seriously limits the U.S.’s ability to serve as an effective broker in the future. Trump irresponsibly broke with decades of precedent in order to fulfill a dangerous campaign promise, and did so despite the warnings of leaders around the world.”
U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell
U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Dearborn) released the following statement after President Trump declared Jerusalem the capital of Israel:
“President Trump’s decision to designate Jerusalem as the Israeli capital outside of a comprehensive two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is deeply disturbing as it undercuts continuing efforts toward peace. The final status of Jerusalem should be determined through negotiations between the two parties as part of a resolution to the conflict, as has been U.S. policy since 1967. This action raises tensions in an already restive region, placing Americans stationed in the Middle East at risk while increasing the chance of a wider regional conflict. I strongly oppose President Trump’s decision, which will serve as an obstacle to future peace between Israelis and Palestinians.”
Middle East Institute (MEI)
A statement issued by MEI President Wendy Chamberlin said President Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel is a major policy shift that carries enormous risk. Warnings from Arab and European allies of the “explosive” consequences of the move aptly reflect the fragile dynamics in the region and the sensitivity of the question of Jerusalem to millions worldwide.
“This major policy shift, however, renders a negotiated solution, and any attempt to relaunch the peace process, extremely difficult,” Chamberlin said. “The final status of Jerusalem must ultimately be decided by Israelis and Palestinians through a peace process that is guaranteed by the United States.”
Arab American Institute (AAI)
“Listening to President Trump’s announcement regarding Jerusalem was profoundly disturbing,” said James Zogby, president of AAI, a national Arab American organization based in Washington, DC. “It’s a devastating blow; to Muslims and Christians living under harsh Israeli rule in occupied Jerusalem; to Arab and Muslim sensitivities and to U.S. relations with our Arab allies. It also damages U.S. leadership worldwide, since we have now broken ranks with the E.U. and the rest of the international community. Trump is playing with fire and the consequences will be grave. It was especially troubling to hear the president announcing measures that are bound to provoke and incite violence while at the same time absurdly preaching non-violence and peace.”