Trump officially recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s capital
President Trump announced he's recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital city, and startin..
- President Trump announced he's recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital city, and starting the process of moving the U.S. embassy there from Tel Aviv
- 'Today we finally acknowledge the obvious, that Jerusalem is Israel's capital. This is nothing more or less than a recognition of reality,' he said
- Palestinians said it would be 'a kiss of death to the two-state solution' and Trump is 'declaring war in the Middle East'
- The terror group Hamas said Trump has opened 'the gates of hell'
- Pope Francis said he was 'profoundly concerned' and appealed that 'everyone respects the status quo of the city'
- China, which has good ties with Israel and the Palestinians, expressed concerns over 'possible aggravation of regional tensions'
- Iran's supreme leader said Trump's new stance represented 'incompetence and failure'; Russia expressed concern about a 'possible deterioration' there
- Moving the embassy to Jerusalem will unfold over 'years,' a senior White House official said; 'It won't be immediate, it won't be months, it won't be quick'
- White House offered no expansion on Trump's argument that peace process is unaffected and how it ties in to Jared Kushner's peace plan
By David Martosko, Us Political Editor For Dailymail.com and Wires
Published: 13:13 EST, 6 December 2017 | Updated: 17:54 EST, 6 December 2017
President Donald Trump set off protests throughout the Middle East on Wednesday as he announced Wednesday that America formally recognizes Jerusalem as Israel's capital city.
He changed decades of U.S. policy in a brief afternoon speech and casting the move as a bid to preserve, not derail, aspirations for regional peace.
Appearing in the White House's Diplomatic Reception Room against an elaborate backdrop of Christmas decorations, he also said the United States embassy in Israel would, over time, be moved there from Tel Aviv.
Israel is the only country where the United States has an embassy in a city that the host nation does not consider its capital.
His speech was greeted by demonstrations in the Middle East and a threat from Hamas that he had 'opened the gates of hell'.
Palestinian secular and Islamist factions called a general strike on Thursday after tens of thousands took to the streets on Wednesday night.
World leaders including the Pope spoke out against the measure, saying that it jeopardized the peace process. But Trump was unrepentant that he was doing the 'right thing'.
'I have determined that it is time to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel,' Trump said. 'While previous presidents have made this a major campaign promise, they failed to deliver. Today I am delivering.'
'When I came into office I promised to look at the world's challenges with open eyes and very fresh thinking,' he said, leaning heavily on a mid-1990s federal law that demanded the embassy's relocation.
'We have declined to acknowledge any Israeli capital – at all,' Trump added. 'But today we finally acknowledge the obvious, that Jerusalem is Israel's capital. This is nothing more or less than a recognition of reality.'
'It is also the right thing to do. It is something that has to be done.'
Scroll down for video and to read the complete speech
Donald Trump officially recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capitol on Wednesday and launched a process to move the U.S. embassy there, casting his decision as an act of political courage
The president signed a proclamation after his short speech, backed up by Vice President Mike Pence
'Today we finally acknowledge the obvious, that Jerusalem is Israel's capital; this is nothing more or less than a recognition of reality. It is also the right thing to do,' Trump said
Take to the streets: Young men in Gaza protested after Trump's announcement, with Hamas asking for a 'day of rage' on Friday
Reaction spread around the Islamic world, with this crowd taking to the streets in Istanbul in front of the U.S. consulate to protest
In flames: In Gaza Palestinians burned the U.S. and Israeli flags as Trump's announcement later on Wednesday was revealed
Trump spoke to cameras in the Diplomatic Reception Room at the White House, surrounded by Christmas trees as he spoke about tensions between Muslims and Jews
TRUMP SETS OFF CONDEMNATION WORLDWIDE…
'I'm intending to speak to President Trump about this matter. Our position has not changed, it has been a long standing one and it is also a very clear one. It is that the status of Jerusalem should be determined in a negotiated settlement.' British Prime Minister Theresa May
'These deplorable and unacceptable measures deliberately undermine all peace efforts.' Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas
'This decision will open the gates of hell on US interests in the region.' Hamas official Ismail Radwan
The move will have 'dangerous repercussions on the stability and security of the region and efforts to attain peace'. King Abdullah of Jordan
'This decision is a regrettable decision that France does not approve of and goes against international law and all the resolutions of the U.N. Security Council.' French President Emmanuel Macron
'I have consistently spoken out against any unilateral measures that would jeopardize the prospect of peace for Israelis and Palestinians.' U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres
'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.' Turkey's Foreign Ministry
'Death sentence for all who seek peace.' Qatar's foreign minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani
'I pray to the Lord that its identity is preserved and strengthened for the benefit of the Holy Land, the Middle East and the whole world and that wisdom and prudence prevail to prevent new elements of tension from being added to a global context already convulsed by so many cruel conflicts.' Pope Francis
'That they claim they want to announce [Jerusalem] as the capital of occupied Palestine is because of their incompetence and failure,' –Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei
'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.' European Union Foreign Affairs Chief Federica Mogherini
Every president since Bill Clinton has exercised a waiver in the Jerusalem Embassy Act, effectively kicking the can down the road. Trump said that has brought the world 'no closer to a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.'
A major theme in Trump's unprecedented statement was his claim that it shouldn't interfere with longer-term peace negotiations between Israeli and Palestinian leaders.
What the speech did not spell out was how that could be the case – and there was no briefing from the White House afterwards to expand on Trump's case.
His son-in-law Jared Kushner is currently drawing up a Middle East peace plan, but when it will appear and how Wednesday's dramatic announcement will play a part in it is unknown.
Notably Kushner, 36, a former property developer, was not present for Trump's speech and proclamation signing.
But the Palestine Liberation Organization said after his speech that it had destroyed hopes for a two-state solution.
The terror group Hamas said Trump had opened 'the gates of hell.'
Sami Abu Zuhri, the leader of Hamas, said that Trump's decision 'will not succeed in changing the reality of Jerusalem being Islamic Arab land.'
'This decision is foolish and time will tell that the biggest losers are Trump and Netanyahu.'
But Trump insisted that 'this decision is not intended in any way to reflect a departure from our strong commitment to facilitate a lasting peace agreement. 'We want an agreement that is a great deal for the Israelis and a great deal for the Palestinians.'
'We are not taking a position of any final status issues, including the specific boundaries of the Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem or the resolution of contested borders,' he continued.
'Those questions are up to the parties involved. The United States remains deeply committed to helping facilitate a peace agreement that is acceptable to both sides. I intend to do everything in my power to help forge such an agreement.'
Trump said the United States will continue to support a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian standoff, 'if agreed to by both sides.'
'In the meantime, I call on all parties to maintain the status quo at Jerusalem's holy sites,' he said.
… BUT ISRAEL'S PRIME MINISTER IS HAPPY
'This is a historic day. Jerusalem has been the capital of Israel for nearly 70 years. Jerusalem has been the focus of our hopes, our dreams, our prayers for three millennia. Jerusalem has been the capital of the Jewish people for 3,000 years.' Benjamin Netanyahu.
'Jerusalem is today, and must remain, a place where Jews pray at the Western Wall, where Christians walk the Stations of the Cross and where Muslims pray at Al-Aqsa Mosque,' Trump added.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Trump's policy shift 'historic' and quickly pledged to continue giving Muslims and Christians access to their sacred places in Jerusalem's Old City.
Trump insisted that ordering a move of the embassy's location would 'immediately begin the process of hiring architects, engineers and planners so that a new embassy, when completed, will be a magnificent tribute to peace.'
America's friends and foes unleashed fierce criticism before Trump made official what the White House previewed for reporters Tuesday night.
But Trump stuck to his guns, calling his decision an act of political courage.
The president previewed his 'big announcement' during a cabinet meeting, which he said concerns 'Israel and the Palestinians in the Middle East. And I think it's long overdue.'
'Many presidents have said they want to do something, and they didn't do it. Whether it's through courage or they change their mind I can't tell you. But a lot of people have said we have to do something, and they didn't do it.'
US and Israeli national flags were projected on the wall of Jerusalem's Old City on Wednesday
The status of Jerusalem – home to sites holy to the Muslim, Jewish and Christian religions – has been one of the thorniest issues in long-running Mideast peace efforts. Pictured: Protesters in Gaza City tonight
A woman chants slogans during a sit-in in the Bourj al-Barajneh Palestinian refugee camp in Beirut, Lebanon
President Macron branded the decision 'regrettable', calling for efforts to 'avoid violence at all costs'. Pictured: Protests in Istanbul after the announcement tonight
Rebukes spread: In Britain, Prime Minister Theresa May said she would challenge Trump and at the Vatican Pope Francis said he was 'profoundly concerned' and appealed that 'everyone respects the status quo of the city'
More opprobrium: Turkey's president Recey Tayyip Erdogan, who met King Abdullah of Jordan on Tuesday, had called the move on Jerusalem a 'red line'. His spokesman on Wednesday said it was a 'grave mistake that will virtually eliminate the fragile Middle East peace process'.
A senior administration official said Tuesday that the president's decision to move the embassy in the long term 'is a recognition of reality.'
While Israel welcomed the news, Palestinian officials declared the Mideast peace process 'finished' and Turkey announced it would host a meeting of Islamic nations next week to give Muslim countries' leaders an opportunity to coordinate a response.
This is a day that is long overdue. Jerusalem has been, and always will be, the eternal, undivided capital of the State of Israel.Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan The president's decision … comes at the wrong time and unnecessarily inflames the regionDemocratic Sen. Mark Warner
In Gaza, U.S. and Israeli flags were burned and in the West Bank Hamas declared Friday a 'day of rage,' raising the specter of mass violence in the occupied territories.
Israeli security forces braced for violence as well.
The Pope made a plea for Trump to rethink urgently and spoke out at his weekly general audience in Rome .
'I make a heartfelt appeal so that all commit themselves to respecting the status quo of the city, in conformity with the pertinent resolutions of the United Nations,' Pope Francis said.
The Roman Catholic Pontiff told thousands of people at his general audience: 'I cannot keep quiet about my deep concern about the situation that has been created in the last few days.'
A Turkish government spokesman said that the move will plunge the region and the world into 'a fire with no end in sight.'
In the UK Prime Minister Theresa May said she would challenge the country's closest ally.
'I'm intending to speak to President Trump about this matter,' May told MPs.
'Our position has not changed, it has been a long standing one and it is also a very clear one.
'It is that the status of Jerusalem should be determined in a negotiated settlement between the Israelis and the Palestinians, and Jerusalem should ultimately form a shared capital between the Israeli and Palestinian states.'
The harsh global reaction cast questions about the feasibility of a brewing U.S. peace plan that is expected to be presented by the White House in the near future.
Trump would effectively be making a declaration of war, the Palestinians' chief representative to Britain said Wednesday before the president's speech.
'If he says what he is intending to say about Jerusalem being the capital of Israel, it means a kiss of death to the two-state solution,' Manuel Hassassian said in a BBC radio interview.
'He is declaring war in the Middle East, he is declaring war against 1.5 billion Muslims [and] hundreds of millions of Christians that are not going to accept the holy shrines to be totally under the hegemony of Israel,' Hassassian added.
Trump complained during a late morning cabinet meeting at the White House that 'many presidents have said they want to do something, and they didn't do it; whether it's through courage or they change their mind I can't tell you'
Contested city: Jerusalem is the holiest city of three religions and until now, never recognized by the U.S. or most other countries as Israel's capital. Trump's move upends what had long been U.S. policy, that recognition would be part of the peace process
The Palestinians seek east Jerusalem as the capital of a future independent state and fear that Trump's declaration essentially imposes on them a disastrous solution for one of the core issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
'There is no way that there can be talks with the Americans. The peace process is finished. They have already pre-empted the outcome,' said Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi. 'They cannot take us for granted.'
The U.S. decision 'destroys the peace process,' added Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah. Top Palestinian officials were meeting Wednesday to plot their course forward.
Congressional leaders on the Republican side of the aisle were overwhelmingly supportive in Washington on Wednesday.
'This is a day that is long overdue,' said Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan.
'Jerusalem has been, and always will be, the eternal, undivided capital of the State of Israel.'
But Democrats were openly critical.
Trump's decision 'comes at the wrong time and unnecessarily inflames the region,' Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia insisted.
'This announcement upends long-standing U.S. policy and international agreements that the status of Jerusalem should be determined as part of a peace settlement between Israel and the Palestinians, not unilaterally.'
Among Trump's critics Wednesday was Nicholas Burns, a former member of the Foreign Policy Board while Democrat John Kerry was secretary of State and a faculty member at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government.
'I believe this decision is misguided. It will diminish U.S. influence among Palestinians and the wider Moslem World,' Burns told DailyMail.com.
'The State Department is already warning Americans about the possible reaction worldwide. And we are getting nothing for this major, unilateral American concession.'
WHY THE CHRISTIAN RIGHT HAS PUSHED TO MOVE ISRAEL'S CAPITAL TO JERUSALEM – 'IT'S WHAT THE GOSPEL SAYS'
President Trump's controversial decision to announce the move of the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem has drawn criticism from Islamic groups, U.S. Jewish groups, and even the Pope as a potential obstacle to peace.
Pope Francis advised against 'adding new elements of tension in a world already shaken and scarred by many cruel conflicts,' cautioning against the move in unusually stark terms.
But the move is a priority for a group of Christian evangelicals who are strongly pro-Israel and are an important part of Trump's electoral coalition. They see Mike Pence, the vice-president, as a leader and instrumental in Wednesday's announcement.
Among those cheering the president's announcement was Rev. Robert Jeffress, the pastor at a Texas megachurch who preached during Trump's inauguration. Jeffress tweeted on Wednesday: 'President @realDonaldTrump has demonstrated true leadership today by recognizing Jerusalem as the legitimate capital of Israel.'
In his statement, he mentioned his belief that Jerusalem will be the place where Jesus Christ will return for the 'second coming' and 'judgement day.'
'Jerusalem is and should be recognized as the capital of Israel. It is David's capital, the site of the First and Second Temples, the focus of the historians' accounts, the Psalmists' songs and the prophets' visions,' wrote Jeffress. 'It is the place where Jesus, a Jew himself, was crucified, and where he was resurrected. It is the place where he will set foot again on earth at his second coming.'
Trump signed, Pence smiled: The vice president is a figurehead for evangelicals
Another vocal supporter of the move has been Christians United for Israel, whose chairman, John Hagee has met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Hagee issued a video statement Wednesday lavishing praise on Trump for the move.
'President Trump told me when last we spoke regarding the embassy that he would not disappoint us, speaking of the evangelical community, and today he has kept that promise,' Hagee said, speaking in front of American and Israeli flags. 'President Trump has made a bold and courageous stand that will be remembered in history forever.'
He gushed: 'President Trump has stepped into political immortality.'
Trump, in his statement announcing his decision, cast it as a matter of political courage and acknowledging reality. Israel makes Jerusalem its capital, though other nations keep their embassies in Tel Aviv.
'This is nothing more, or less, than a recognition of reality. It is also the right thing to do. It's something that has to be done,' Trump said.
'Jerusalem is today, and must remain, a place where Jews pray at the Western Wall, where Christians walk the Stations of the Cross, and where Muslims worship at Al-Aqsa Mosque,' the president said.
Some Christian evangelicals, including adherents to Christian Zionism, cite Biblical prophesies that that return of the Jews (the descendants of Abraham) to the Holy Land heralds the second coming of Christ. Some also believe this will bring about the conversion of the Jews to Christianity.
Moving the embassy will be a long process.
'This will be a matter of some years. It won't be immediate, it won't be months, it won't be quick,' a senior administration official said Tuesday night.
'For instance,' he said, 'the United States was looking at moving out of Grosvenor Square in London for a long, long time. And I think that took something like eight years to get done and will be done in early 2018.'
'It is a practicable impossibility to move the embassy tomorrow,' another official said. 'There are about 1,000 personnel in the embassy in Tel Aviv. There is no facility they can move into in Jerusalem, as of today.'
'It will take some time to find a site, address security concerns, design a new facility, fund a new facility – working with Congress, obviously – and build it. So this is not an instantaneous process.'
Israel's prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said on Facebook that '[o]ur historical national identity is receiving important expressions every day.'
Other members of his cabinet were more forthcoming. Education Minister Naftali Bennett, head of the nationalist Jewish Home party, praised what he called Trump's 'bold and yet natural' move.
'That they claim they want to announce [Jerusalem] as the capital of occupied Palestine is because of their incompetence and failure,' Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said
A laborer hangs a U.S. national flag on a lamp post along a street where the U.S. consulate in located in Jerusalem
'The sooner the Arab world recognizes Jerusalem as our capital, the sooner we will reach real peace. Real peace that is not predicated on an illusion that we are going to carve up Jerusalem and carve up Israel,' Bennett told The Associated Press on the sidelines of the Jerusalem Post Diplomatic Conference.
The Family Research Council, an American evangelical Christian group, was enthusiastic.
'America's foreign policy, as it pertains to Israel, is coming into alignment with this biblical truth: Jerusalem is the eternal and indivisible capital of the Jewish state,' the group's president Tony Perkins said.
International leaders, however, swiftly criticized Trump's plan.
China, which has good ties with Israel and the Palestinians, expressed concerns over 'possible aggravation of regional tensions.'
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said during a news briefing that the status of Jerusalem was a complicated and sensitive issue and China was concerned the U.S. decision 'could sharpen regional conflict.'
BUILD AN EMBASSY? WHY NOT HANG A NEW SIGN INSTEAD?
Any building where an American ambassador has his or her residence and regular office is technically an embassy.
It's like the concept of Air Force One, which is not a specific aircraft: Any plane the President of the United States rides on, even if it's a single-engine crop-duster, is technically Air Force One.
The U.S. already has a consulate in Jerusalem, meaning that a new sign on the door and new accommodations for Ambassador David Friedman would technically acomplish what President Trump wants.
But the White House says it will go through a years-long process instead, not moving Friedman and his staff until Congress funds and the State Department builds a brand new facility.
'We don't just put a plaque on a door and open a mission,' a senior administration official said Tuesday evening.
'There are major security, structural concerns and very, very strict guidelines anywhere in the world that have to be followed before that flag goes up or that plaque goes on. Jerusalem is no exception to those rules.'
In January former U.S. Ambassador to the United nations John Bolton told DailyMail.com that the State Department could – and should – take the quicker route.
'You can move the embassy by changing the name-plate on the consulate, and then build a permanent embassy in due course,' he said. 'The sooner they do it the better.'
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee added that the State Department should 'do it – do it quickly, do it boldly. In fact, my advice to them is don't announce you're going to do it.'
'Do it and announce you just did it,' said Huckabee.
'You do it, and you just say, 'Yesterday we moved the embassy.' … It would be totally unnecessary and counterproductive to say, 'We're going to start laying a building cornerstone,' and it just creates an environment for tension that's unnecessary.'
'All parties should do more for the peace and tranquility of the region, behave cautiously, and avoid impacting the foundation for resolving the long-standing Palestine issue and initiating new hostility in the region,' Geng said.
Russia, a key Mideast player, expressed its concern about a 'possible deterioration.'
Two leading Lebanese newspapers published front-page rebukes of Trump.
Britain's Foreign Minister, Boris Johnson, who had already expressed concern about the U.S. decision, on Wednesday said it was now time for the Americans to present their peace plan for the region.
'Jerusalem obviously should be part of the final settlement between the Israelis and the Palestinians – a negotiated settlement that we want to see,' Johnson said.
'We have no plans ourselves to move our embassy.'
In Brussels Secretary of State Rex Tillerson tried to dampen down the reaction.
'The president is very committed to the Middle East peace process,' Tillerson told reporters at a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Brussels.
He said a small team led by Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner – a 36-year-old former property developer – has been 'engaged in a quiet way' in the region to try to revive peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.
'We continue to believe there is a very good opportunity for peace to be achieved and the president has a team that is devoted to that entirely,' Tillerson said.
Trump's Mideast team have spent months meeting with Israeli, Palestinian and Arab leaders. Details of their long awaited plan remain a mystery.
'Clearly this is a decision that makes it more important than ever that the long-awaited American proposals on the Middle East peace process are now brought forward,' Johnson told reporters in Brussels.
In his speech, Trump was expected to instruct the State Department to begin the multi-year process of moving the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to the holy city. It remained unclear, however, when he might take that physical step, which is required by U.S. law but has been waived on national security grounds for more than two decades.
Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Executive Committee Member Hanan Ashrawi says moving the US embassy to Jerusalem would be "the death knell of any peace process" https://t.co/GfVtsLxmcT
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) December 6, 2017
Trump's relationship with Chinese presidenet Xi Jinping could be in danger after Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said the status of Jerusalem was a complicated and sensitive issue and the U.S. decision 'could sharpen regional conflict'
To that end, the officials said Trump would delay the embassy move by signing a waiver, which is required by U.S. law every six months. He will continue to sign the waiver until preparations for the embassy move are complete.
IT'S INSANE, SAY PALESTINIANS IN JERUSALEM
Palestinians seethed with anger and a sense of betrayal over President Trump's decision to recognize the disputed city of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
Many heard the death knell for the long-moribund U.S.-sponsored talks aimed at ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and establishing a Palestinian state alongside Israel. They also said more violence could erupt.
'Trump wants to help Israel take over the entire city. Some people may do nothing, but others are ready to fight for Jerusalem,' said Hamad Abu Sbeih, 28, an unemployed resident of the walled Old City.
'This decision will ignite a fire in the region. Pressure leads to explosions,' he said.
'This is insane. You are speaking about something fateful. Jerusalem is the capital of the state of Palestine and neither the world nor our people will accept it,' said Samir Al-Asmar, 58, a merchant from the Old City who was a child when it fell to Israel.
'It will not change what Jerusalem is. Jerusalem will remain Arab. Such a decision will sabotage things and people will not accept it.'
The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity pending Trump's announcement, said the decision was merely an acknowledgment of 'historical and current reality' rather than a political statement and said the city's physical and political borders will not be compromised.
They noted that almost all of Israel's government agencies and parliament are in Jerusalem, rather than Tel Aviv, where the U.S. and other countries maintain embassies.
Still, the declaration of Jerusalem as Israel's capital carries deep symbolic significance and could have dangerous consequences. The competing claims to east Jerusalem, the section of the city captured by Israel in 1967, have frequently boiled over into deadly violence over the years.
East Jerusalem is home to the city's most sensitive Jewish, Muslim and Christian holy sites, as well as its 330,000 Palestinian residents.
The United States has never endorsed the Jewish state's claim of sovereignty over any part of Jerusalem and has insisted its status be resolved through Israeli-Palestinian negotiation.
The mere consideration of Trump changing the status quo sparked a renewed U.S. security warning on Tuesday. America's consulate in Jerusalem ordered U.S. personnel and their families to avoid visiting Jerusalem's Old City or the West Bank, and urged American citizens in general to avoid places with increased police or military presence.
Trump, as a presidential candidate, repeatedly promised to move the U.S. Embassy. However, U.S. leaders have routinely and unceremoniously delayed such a move since President Bill Clinton signed a law in 1995 stipulating that the United States must relocate its diplomatic presence to Jerusalem unless the commander in chief issues a waiver on national security grounds.
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.
THREE FAITHS AND THOUSANDS OF YEARS OF HISTORY HAVE SHAPED THE EMBASSY BATTLE
Jerusalem has been a contested site for centuries, and today three major world religions – Judaism, Islam and Christianity – lay claim to various holy sites and monuments there – all of them on the Temple Mount.
The crux is that Jews see the West Wall as their holiest site as this is all that remains of the Jewish temple after its destruction by the Romans; Christians see the Church of the Holy Sepulchre as their holiest site because it was where Christ rose from the dead; and Muslims see the Dome of the Rock as their holiest site because the Prophet Muhammad began his journey to heaven there.
Three faiths, one city: Jews revere the Western Wall, Christians the Holy Sepulchre and Muslims the Dome of the rock
The importance of each has echoed down history. Medieval maps put Jerusalem in the center of the world, the Crusades tried to capture the city for Christians and the holy sites changed hands repeatedly in the Middle Ages.
By the 1800s Jerusalem had a population of just 8,000 people and was a backwater in the Ottoman Empire but that was to change rapidly as colonial powers fought over the Middle East, Christian revivalists moved into the city and Zionism became a significant political movement among the world's Jews.
The collapse of the Ottoman Empire left Britain in charge of the heterogeneous city and its growing New Jerusalem as settlement spread beyond the city walls.
Jewish immigration boomed and tensions grew, with a pogrom in 1920, then growing attacks from Zionist groups on British forces. It was to presage a bloody aftermath of World War II as Jewish militias steppes up attacks on the British.
But the immediate roots of Trump's dramatic announcement lie in the messy history of the Middle East after World War II.
The U.N. plan which set up separate Jewish and Israeli states in what had been British-controlled Palestine in 947 said Jerusalem was to be a 'separated body' administered by the United Nations.
The State of Israel was declared in 1948 and over the next year recognized by countries including the U.S. – but crucially on the basis of the U.N. plan, meaning Jerusalem could not be the capital.
Israeli soldiers after capturing East Jerusalem from Jordan in 1967.
Conflict which rolled into 1949 ended in an armistice which left Israel controlling the west of the city and Jordan the east, and Israel's president called the city Israel's 'eternal capital'.
But the world largely did not follow. The U.S., which wanted a negotiated settlement to replace the armistice of 1949, built its embassy in Tel Aviv, and most other countries followed.
The situation was upended in 1967 when the Six Day War's spectacular victories gave Israel control of Jerusalem and the West Bank.
That ushered in a new era for Israel, which took control of East Jerusalem and made it separate legally from the West Bank, and over the years repeatedly rejecting the 1947 U.N. position of the city's special status.
Repeated efforts to settle the issue have involved the final status of Jerusalem being part of the negotiations towards a deal.
The U.S., which has been in support of the major past efforts, kept its embassy in Tel Aviv as a result, and other major countries did the same.
Tel Aviv is the undoubted economic capital of Israel but the country's parliament and president are in Jerusalem and diplomats have to go there to be officially recognized and for many meetings with the country's government.
A handful of smaller countries have from time to time recognized Jerusalem as capital and even had embassies there, but no major country has until now made that declaration.
In Israel and Palestine both sides appear determined to have Jerusalem as their capital and no peace plan has ever got far enough to test whether potential compromises which have been offered – such as an international trust administering the holy sites, and the creation of a Palestinian capital in the suburbs – would actually happen.
Currently the city is roughly two-thirds Jewish and one third Muslim, and the historic Christian community makes up just two per cent of the population.
Trump has spoken of his desire to broker a 'deal of the century' that would end Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
U.S. officials, along with an outside adviser to the administration, said the president's speech was not aimed at resolving the conflict over Jerusalem.
He isn't planning to use the phrase 'undivided capital,' according to the officials. Such terminology is favored by Israeli officials and would imply Israel's sovereignty over east Jerusalem.
One official also said Trump would insist that issues of sovereignty and borders must be negotiated by Israel and the Palestinians. The official said Trump would call for Jordan to maintain its role as the legal guardian of Jerusalem's Muslim holy places, and reflect Israel and Palestinian wishes for a two-state peace solution.
Elsewhere, however, reactions were skeptical, especially across the Muslim world. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the 'whole world is against' Trump's move, and the supreme leader of Iran, Israel's staunchest enemy, condemned Trump.
The state TV's website quoted Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as saying that 'the victory will ultimately be for the Islamic nation and Palestine.'
Iran does not recognize Israel, and supports anti-Israeli militant groups like Lebanese Hezbollah and Palestinian Hamas.
'That they claim they want to announce Quds as the capital of occupied Palestine is because of their incompetence and failure,' Khamenei said, using the Arabic name for Jerusalem.
TRUMP'S SPEECH DECLARING JERUSALEM ISRAEL'S CAPITAL
'When I came into office, I promised to look at the world's challenges with open eyes and very fresh thinking.
'We cannot solve our problems by making the same failed assumptions and repeating the same failed strategies of the past. All challenges demand new approaches.
'My announcement today marks the beginning of a new approach to conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.
'In 1995, Congress adopted the Jerusalem Embassy Act urging the federal government to relocate the American Embassy to Jerusalem and to recognize that that city, and so importantly, is Israel's capital. This act passed congress by an overwhelming bipartisan majority. And was reaffirmed by unanimous vote of the Senate only six months ago.
'Yet for over 20 years, every previous American president has exercised the law's waiver, refusing to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem or to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital city. Presidents issued these waivers under the belief that delaying the recognition of Jerusalem would advance the cause of peace. Some say they lacked courage but they made their best judgments based on facts as they understood them at the time. Nevertheless, the record is in.
'After more than two decades of waivers, we are no closer to a lasting peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.
'It would be folly to assume that repeating the exact same formula would now produce a different or better result. Therefore, I have determined that it is time to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. While previous presidents have made this a major campaign promise, they failed to deliver.
'Today I am delivering. I've judged this course of action to be in the best interests of the United States of America and the pursuit of peace between Israel and the Palestinians. This is a long overdue step to advance the peace process. And to work towards a lasting agreement.
'Israel is a sovereign nation with the right, like every other sovereign nation, to determine its own capital. Acknowledging this is a fact is a necessary condition for achieving peace. It was 70 years ago that the United States under President Truman recognized the state of Israel.
'Ever since then, Israel has made its capital in the city of Jerusalem, the capital the Jewish people established in ancient times. Today, Jerusalem is the seat of the modern Israeli government. It is the home of the Israeli Parliament, the Knesset, as well as the Israeli Supreme Court. It is the location of the official residence of the prime minister and the president. It is the headquarters of many government ministries.
'For decades, visiting American presidents, secretaries of State and military leaders have met their Israeli counterparts in Jerusalem, as I did on my trip to Israel earlier this year.
'Jerusalem is not just the heart of three great religions, but it is now also the heart of one of the most successful democracies in the world. Over the past seven decades, the Israeli people have by the a country where Jews, Muslims and Christians and people of all faiths are free to live and worship according to their conscience and according to their beliefs.
'Jerusalem is today and must remain a place where Jews pray at the Western Wall, where Christians walk the stations of the cross, and where Muslims worship at Al-Aqsa Mosque. However, through all of these years, presidents representing the United States have declined to officially recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital. In fact, we have declined to acknowledge any Israeli capital at all.
'But today we finally acknowledge the obvious. That Jerusalem is Israel's capital. This is nothing more or less than a recognition of reality. It is also the right thing to do. It's something that has to be done.
'That is why consistent with the Jerusalem embassy act, I am also directing the State Department to begin preparation to move the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. This will immediately begin the process of hiring architects, engineers and planners so that a new embassy, when completed, will be a magnificent tribute to peace.
'In making these announcements, I also want to make one point very clear. This decision is not intended in any way to reflect a departure from our strong commitment to facilitate a lasting peace agreement.
'We want an agreement that is a great deal for the Israelis and a great deal for the Palestinians. We are not taking a position of any final status issues including the specific boundaries of the Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem or the resolution of contested borders. Those questions are up to the parties involved.
'The United States remains deeply committed to helping facilitate a peace agreement that is acceptable to both sides. I intend to do everything in my power to help forge such an agreement. Without question, Jerusalem is one of the most sensitive issues in those talks.
'The United States would support a two-state solution if agreed to by both sides. In the meantime, I call on all parties to maintain the status quo at Jerusalem's holy sites including the Temple Mount, also known as Haram al-Sharif. Above all, our greatest hope is for peace. The universal yearning in every human soul.
'With today's action, I reaffirm my administration's longstanding commitment to a future of peace and security for the region. There will, of course, be disagreement and dissent regarding this announcement. But we are confident that ultimately, as we work through these disagreements, we will arrive at a peace and a place far greater in understanding and cooperation. This sacred city should call forth the best in humanity.
'Lifting our sights to what is possible, not pulling us back and down to the old fights that have become so totally predictable. Peace is never beyond the grasp of those willing to reach it.
'So today we call for calm, for moderation, and for the voices of tolerance to prevail over the purveyors of hate. Our children should inherit our love, not our conflicts. I repeat the message I delivered at the historic and extraordinary summit in Saudi Arabia earlier this year: The Middle East is a region rich with culture, spirit, and history. Its people are brilliant, proud and diverse. Vibrant and strong.
'But the incredible future awaiting this region is held at bay by bloodshed, ignorance and terror.
'Vice President Pence will travel to the region in the coming days to reaffirm our commitment to work with partners throughout the Middle East to defeat radicalism that threatens the hopes and dreams of future generations.
I't is time for the many who desire peace to expel the extremists from their midsts. It is time for all civilized nations and people to respond to disagreement with reasoned debate, not violence. And it is time for young and moderate voices all across the Middle East to claim for themselves a bright and beautiful future.
'So today, let us rededicate ourselves to a path of mutual understanding and respect. Let us rethink old assumptions and open our hearts and minds to possible and possibilities.
'And finally, I ask the leaders of the region political and religious, Israeli and Palestinian, Jewish and Christian and Muslim to join us in the noble quest for lasting peace.
'Thank you. God bless you. God bless Israel. God bless the Palestinians and God bless the United States.'
Why Australia decided to quit its vaping habit
He’s talking about students in his class, teenagers, who can’t stop vaping.
He sees the effect of the candy-flavoured, nicotine-packed e-cigarettes on young minds every day, with children even vaping in class.
“The ones who are deepest into it will just get up out of their seat, or they’ll be fidgeting or nervous. The worst offenders will just walk out because they’re literally in withdrawal.”
Those who are most addicted need nicotine patches or rehabilitation, he says, talking about 13 and 14-year-olds.
is enough and introduced a range of new restrictions. Despite vapes already being illegal for many, under new legislation they will become available by prescription only.
The number of vaping teenagers in Australia has soared in recent years and authorities say it is the “number one behavioural issue” in schools across the country.
And they blame disposable vapes – which some experts say could be more addictive than heroin and cocaine – but for now are available in Australia in every convenience store, next to the chocolate bars at the counter.
For concerned teachers like Chris, their hands have been tied.
“If we suspect they have a vape, all we can really do is tell them to go to the principal’s office.
“At my old school, my head teacher told me he wanted to install vape detector alarms in the toilet, but apparently we weren’t allowed to because that would be an invasion of privacy.”
E-cigarettes have been sold as a safer alternative to tobacco, as they do not produce tar – the primary cause of lung cancer.
Some countries continue to promote them with public health initiatives to help cigarette smokers switch to a less deadly habit.
Last month, the UK government announced plans to hand out free vaping starter kits to one million smokers in England to get smoking rates below 5% by 2030.
But Australia’s government says that evidence that e-cigarettes help smokers quit is insufficient for now. Instead, research shows it may push young vapers into taking up smoking later in life.
Vapes, or e-cigarettes, are lithium battery-powered devices that have cartridges filled with liquids containing nicotine, artificial flavourings, and other chemicals.
The liquid is heated and turned into a vapour and inhaled into the user’s lungs.
Vaping took off from the mid-2000s and there were some 81 million vapers worldwide in 2021, according to the Global State of Tobacco Harm Reduction group.
Fuelling the rise is the mushrooming popularity of flavoured vapes designed to appeal to the young.
These products can contain far higher volumes of nicotine than regular cigarettes, while some devices sold as ‘nicotine-free’ can actually hold large amounts.
The chemical cocktail also contains formaldehyde, and acetaldehyde – which have been linked to lung disease, heart disease, and cancer.
There’s also a suggestion of an increased risk of stroke, respiratory infection, and impaired lung function.
Experts warn not enough is known about the long-term health effects. But some alarming data has already been drawn out.
In 2020, US health authorities identified more than 2,800 cases of e-cigarette or vaping-related lung injury. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found 68 deaths attributed to that injury.
In Australia, a major study by leading charity The Cancer Council found more than half of all children who had ever vaped had used an e-cigarette they knew contained nicotine and thought that vaping was a socially acceptable behaviour.
School-age children were being supplied with e-cigarettes through friends or “dealers” inside and outside school, or from convenience stores and tobacconists, the report said.
Teens also reported purchasing vapes through social media, websites and at pop-up vape stores, the Generation Vape project found.
“Whichever way teenagers obtain e-cigarettes, they are all illegal, yet it’s happening under the noses of federal and state authorities”, report author and Cancer Council chair Anita Dessaix said.
“All Australian governments say they’re committed to ensuring e-cigarettes are only accessed by smokers with a prescription trying to quit – yet a crisis in youth e-cigarette use is unfolding in plain view.”
In addition to the government’s move to ban the import of all non-pharmaceutical vaping products – meaning they can now only be bought with a prescription – all single-use disposable vapes will be made illegal.
The volume and concentration of nicotine in e-cigarettes will also be restricted, and both flavours and packaging must be plain and carrying warning labels.
But these new measures are not actually all that drastic, says public health physician Professor Emily Banks from the Australian National University.
“Australia is not an outlier. It is unique to have a prescription-only model, but other places actually ban them completely, and that includes almost all of Latin America, India, Thailand and Japan.”
‘We have been duped’
Health Minister Mark Butler said the new vaping regulations will close the “biggest loophole in Australian healthcare history”.
“Just like they did with smoking… ‘Big Tobacco’ has taken another addictive product, wrapped it in shiny packaging and added sweet flavours to create a new generation of nicotine addicts.”
“We have been duped”, he said.
Medical experts agree. Prof Banks argues that the promotion of e-cigarettes as a “healthier” alternative was a classic “sleight-of-hand” from the tobacco industry.
As such vaping has become “normalised” in Australia, and in the UK too.
“There’s over 17,000 flavours, and the majority of use is not for smoking cessation”, she tells the BBC.
“They’re being heavily marketed towards children and adolescents. People who are smoking and using e-cigarettes – that’s the most common pattern of use, dual use.”
Professor Banks says authorities need to “de-normalise” vaping among teenagers and make vapes much harder to get hold of.
“Kids are interpreting the fact that they can very easily get hold of [vapes] as evidence [they’re safe], and they’re actually saying, ‘well, if they were that unsafe, I wouldn’t be able to buy one at the coffee shop’.
But could stricter controls make it harder for people who do turn to vapes hoping to quit or cut down on tobacco?
“It is important to bear in mind that for some people, e-cigarettes have really helped. But we shouldn’t say ‘this is great for smokers to quit’, says Prof Banks.
“We know from
Australia, from the US, from Europe, that two-thirds to three-quarters of people who quit smoking successfully, do so unaided.”
“You’re trying to bring these [vapes] in saying they’re a great way to quit smoking, but actually we’ve got bubble gum flavoured vapes being used by 13-year-olds in the school toilets. That is not what the community signed up for.”
Read from: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-65522841
Australia: Scott Morrison saga casts scrutiny on Queen’s representative
In the past fortnight, Australia has been gripped by revelations that former Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison secretly appointed himself to several additional ministries.
The move has been labelled a “power grab” by his successor as prime minister, and Mr Morrison has been scolded by many – even his own colleagues.
But the scandal has also dragged Australia’s governor-general into the fray – sparking one of the biggest controversies involving the Queen’s representative in Australia in 50 years.
So does Governor-General David Hurley have questions to answer, or is he just collateral damage?
Governors-general have fulfilled the practical duties as Australia’s head of state since the country’s 1901 federation.
Candidates for the role were initially chosen by the monarch but are now recommended by the Australian government.
The job is largely ceremonial – a governor-general in almost every circumstance must act on the advice of the government of the day. But conventions allow them the right to “encourage” and “warn” politicians.
Key duties include signing bills into law, issuing writs for elections, and swearing in ministers.
Mr Hurley has run into trouble on the latter. At Mr Morrison’s request, he swore the prime minister in as joint minister for health in March 2020, in case the existing minister became incapacitated by Covid.
Over the next 14 months, he also signed off Mr Morrison as an additional minister in the finance, treasury, home affairs and resources portfolios.
Mr Morrison already had ministerial powers, so Mr Hurley was basically just giving him authority over extra departments.
It’s a request the governor-general “would not have any kind of power to override or reject”, constitutional law professor Anne Twomey tells the BBC.
“This wasn’t even a meeting between the prime minister and the governor-general, it was just paperwork.”
But Mr Morrison’s appointments were not publicly announced, disclosed to the parliament, or even communicated to most of the ministers he was job-sharing with.
Australia’s solicitor-general found Mr Morrison’s actions were not illegal but had “fundamentally undermined” responsible government.
But the governor-general had done the right thing, the solicitor-general said in his advice this week.
It would have been “a clear breach” for him to refuse the prime minister, regardless of whether he knew the appointments would be kept secret, Stephen Donaghue said.
Critics push for investigation
Ultimately, Mr Hurley had to sign off on Mr Morrison’s requests, but critics say he could have counselled him against it and he could have publicised it himself.
But representatives for the governor-general say these types of appointments – giving ministers the right to administer other departments – are not unusual.
And it falls to the government of the day to decide if they should be announced to the public. They often opt not to.
Mr Hurley himself announcing the appointments would be unprecedented. He had “no reason to believe that appointments would not be communicated”, his spokesperson said.
Emeritus professor Jenny Hocking finds the suggestion Mr Hurley didn’t know the ministries had been kept secret “ridiculous”.
“The last of these bizarre, duplicated ministry appointments… were made more than a year after the first, so clearly by then the governor-general did know that they weren’t being made public,” she says.
“I don’t agree for a moment that the governor-general has a lot of things on his plate and might not have noticed.”
The historian says it’s one of the biggest controversies surrounding a governor-general since John Kerr caused a constitutional crisis by sacking Prime Minister Gough Whitlam in 1975.
Prof Hocking famously fought for transparency around that matter – waging a lengthy and costly legal battle that culminated in the release of Mr Kerr’s correspondence with the Queen.
And she says the same transparency is needed here.
The Australian public need to know whether Mr Hurley counselled the prime minister against the moves, and why he didn’t disclose them
The government has already announced an inquiry into Mr Morrison’s actions, but she wants it to look at the governor-general and his office too.
“If the inquiry is to find out what happened in order to fix what happened, it would be extremely problematic to leave out a key part of that equation.”
Former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull – Mr Morrison’s predecessor – has also voiced support for an inquiry.
“Something has gone seriously wrong at Government House,” he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
“It is the passive compliance along the chain… that did undermine our constitution and our democracy… that troubles me the most. This is how tyranny gets under way.”
PM defends governor-general
Prof Twomey says the criticism of Mr Hurley is unfair – there’s was no “conspiracy” on his part to keep things secret.
“I don’t think it’s reasonable for anyone to expect that he could have guessed that the prime minister was keeping things secret from his own ministers, for example.
“Nobody really thought that was a possibility until about two weeks ago.”
Even if he had taken the unprecedented step to publicise the appointments or to reject Mr Morrison’s request, he’d have been criticised, she says.
“There’d be even more people saying ‘how outrageous!'” she says. “The role of governor-general is awkward because people are going to attack you either way.”
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has also defended Mr Hurley, saying he was just doing his job.
“I have no intention of undertaking any criticism of [him].”
A role fit for purpose?
Prof Hocking says it’s a timely moment to look at the role of the governor-general more broadly.
She points out it’s possible the Queen may have been informed about Mr Morrison’s extra ministries when Australia’s parliament and people were not.
“It does raise questions about whether this is fit for purpose, as we have for decades been a fully independent nation, but we still have… ‘the relics of colonialism’ alive and well.”
Momentum for a fresh referendum on an Australian republic has been growing and advocates have seized on the controversy.
“The idea that the Queen and her representative can be relied upon to uphold our system of government has been debunked once and for all,” the Australian Republic Movement’s Sandy Biar says.
“It’s time we had an Australian head of state, chosen by Australians and accountable to them to safeguard and uphold Australia’s constitution.”
But Prof Twomey says republicans are “clutching at straws” – under their proposals, the head of state would also have been bound to follow the prime minister’s advice.
“It wouldn’t result in any changes that would have made one iota of difference.”
Read from: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-62683210
Australia election: PM Morrison’s security team in car crash in Tasmania
A car carrying the Australian prime minister’s security team has crashed in Tasmania during an election campaign visit.
Four police officers were taken to hospital with “non-life threatening injuries” after the car and another vehicle collided, authorities said.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison was not in the car, but the accident prompted him to cancel the rest of his campaign events on Thursday.
The other driver involved was not hurt.
Tasmania Police said initial investigations suggested the second car had “collided with the rear of the police vehicle, while attempting to merge”. It caused the unmarked security vehicle to roll off the road.
The two Tasmania Police officers and two Australian Federal Police officers were conscious when taken to hospital for medical assessment, the prime minister’s office said.
“Family members of the officers have been contacted and are being kept informed of their condition,” a statement said.
“The PM is always extremely grateful for the protection provided by his security team and extends his best wishes for their recovery and to their families.”
Australians go to the polls on 21 May. Mr Morrison – prime minister since 2018 – is hoping to win his conservative coalition’s fourth term in office.
Polls suggest the opposition Labor Party, led by Anthony Albanese, is favoured to win. However, Mr Morrison defied similar polling to claim victory at the last election in 2019.
Mr Morrison’s Liberal-National coalition holds 76 seats in the House of Representatives – the minimum needed to retain power.
Political observers say the cost of living, climate change, trust in political leaders, and national security will be among key issues in the campaign.
In recent weeks, the prime minister has faced accusations of being a bully and once sabotaging a rival’s career by suggesting the man’s Lebanese heritage made him less electable. Mr Morrison has denied the allegations.
Mr Albanese stumbled into his own controversy this week when he failed to recall the nation’s unemployment or interest rates.
Read from: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-61103987
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