A pro-Hezbollah newspaper has declared ‘Death to America’ on a front page showing a burning US flag after Donald Trump recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
The US President has sparked fury across the Middle East with his announcement yesterday which changed decades of American policy.
Lebanon’s al-Akhbar paper today called the decision ‘America’s new Balfour’ referring to the Balfour Declaration in which Britain endorsed the establishment of a Jewish homeland in the Middle East a century ago.
‘Today in Palestine there is a capable, empowered resistance that owns thousands of rockets that can strike Tel Aviv,’ it said.
Hezbollah, a heavily-armed military and political organisation, has fought numerous conflicts with Israel since it was formed in 1982.
It comes after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused Trump of throwing the Middle East into a ‘ring of fire’ by declaring the divided holy city of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Erdogan also compared the US President to a ‘blender’ stirring up trouble in the region, saying it was ‘not possible to understand’ Trump’s motives.
Trump’s White House speech yesterday was greeted by demonstrations and a threat from Hamas, who called Thursday and Friday ‘days of rage’ and said that Trump had ‘opened the gates of hell’ with his ‘flagrant aggression’.
This morning, two senior White House officials admitted Trump’s move could temporarily derail the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
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Anger: There were demonstrations in Gaza City overnight against Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital
Trump set off protests throughout the Middle East on Wednesday as he announced that America formally recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s capital
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
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has accused Donald Trump of throwing the Middle East into a ‘ring of fire’ by declaring the divided holy city of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital
According to CNN, one of the unnamed sources said the President’s peace team had not spoken to angry Palestinian officials since the announcement but that they were ‘pretty sure’ that ‘derailment’ of the peace process would be ‘temporary’.
One official said: ‘A lot of people put their heads into this decision to see how do we make this happen without at the same time throwing the peace process out of the window,’
The second added: ‘In terms of a moment where it could happen, where it could be the least disruptive at a moment in time, this is the moment. We know there will be some short term pain, but think it will help in the long run.’
In a speech in Washington, Trump said his announcement marked the beginning of a new approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
But Hamas, which dominates the Gaza Strip, urged Arabs and Muslims to ‘undermine the US interests in the region’ and to ‘shun Israel.’
Hamas political leader Ismail Haniyeh said the Palestinian people ‘know how to respond properly to the disregard of their feelings and sanctuaries.’
He added that the decision ‘will not change the facts of history and geography.’
President Trump recognized the disputed city of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital yesterday – a historic decision that overturns decades of US policy and risks triggering a fresh spasm of violence in the Middle East.
‘Israel is a sovereign nation with the right like every other sovereign nation to determine its own capital,’ the US leader declared from the White House. ‘Acknowledging this as a fact is a necessary condition for achieving peace.’
Palestinian terrorist group Hamas warned the announcement ‘opens the gates of hell on US interests in the region’. Pictured: Palestinian protesters burn the American flag and Israeli flag in the city of Gaza City
Criticism poured in from Tehran and Ankara to war-ravaged Syria and Pope Francis, reflecting the anxiety surrounding the announcement, which upends decades of US policy. Pictured: Palestinian women shout slogans during a protest in Gaza City
Hamas political leader Ismail Haniyeh (pictured) said the Palestinian people ‘know how to respond properly to the disregard of their feelings and sanctuaries’
‘It is time to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel,’ Trump said, urging calm and ‘the voices of tolerance to prevail over the purveyors of hate.’
The declaration – met by fierce regional condemnation – ends seven decades of deliberate diplomatic ambiguity about the final status of a holy city vociferously claimed by both Israelis and Palestinians.
Although welcomed by Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a ‘courageous and just decision,’ Trump’s move also left the already faltering peace process in deep doubt.
Mahmud Abbas’s Palestine Liberation Organization said Trump has destroyed the two-state solution, warning the United States could no longer hope to be a peace broker, while Hamas – the Palestinian Islamist movement that runs the Gaza Strip – said Trump’s decision opens ‘the gates of hell on US interests in the region.’
An Ultra Orthodox Jewish man holds a shofar (ram’s horn) with the golden Dome of the Rock Islamic shrine behind
A Turkish government spokesman said the decision was ‘irresponsible’ and illegal. Pictured: Protesters in Gaza attack the move
The Turkish foreign ministry added in a statement that the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians can only be solved through the creation of a Palestinian state with east Jerusalem as its capital. Pictured: Protests in Istanbul
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
Trump’s move plunges the United States into a decades-long dispute over a city considered holy by Jews, Muslims and Christians, and flies in the face of warnings from US allies and enemies across the Middle East
In a frantic series of calls, the leaders of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, the European Union, France, Germany and Turkey all warned Trump against the move. Pictured: Trump making the speech yesterday
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
Making the announcement, Trump also kicked off the process of moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
That makes good on a campaign promise dear to evangelical Christian and right wing Jewish voters – as well as donors – in what he said marked the start of a ‘new approach’ to solving the thorny Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Trump’s predecessors – from Bill Clinton to George Bush – made similar campaign promises. But they quickly reneged upon taking office and assuming the burden of war and peace.
Having taken office with no foreign policy experience and denouncing experts, Trump was determined to show his arrival in Washington spells the end of business as usual.
‘Many presidents have said they want to do something and they didn’t do it,’ Trump said in the run-up to his historic address.
‘Whether it’s courage or they changed their mind, I can’t tell you,’ he said. ‘I think it’s long overdue.’
The announcement leaves many angry US allies and leaders across the Middle East trying to find a measured response and hoping that the tinderbox region is not destined for yet another round of bloodshed.
The leaders of Muslim nations deployed ever-harsher rhetoric to describe Trump’s decision, dashing any hope of a muted response that would help avoid clashes.
Turkey called the decision ‘irresponsible’ and illegal.
In a frantic series of calls, the leaders of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, the European Union, France, Germany and Turkey had warned Trump against the move.
Pope Francis joined a list of leaders warning of a historic misstep.
‘I cannot silence my deep concern over the situation that has emerged in recent days,’ the pontiff said Wednesday.
Moving the US embassy will probably take years to implement, but the repercussions of Trump’s decision preceded even his announcement.
Hundreds of Palestinians burned US and Israeli flags as well as pictures of Trump in the Gaza Strip, while relatively small clashes erupted near the flashpoint West Bank city of Hebron.
Palestinians called for three days of protests – or ‘days of rage’ – starting Wednesday.
US government officials and their families were ordered to avoid Jerusalem’s Old City and the West Bank, though the situation remained largely calm up until Trump’s address.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan yesterday called for a summit of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the main pan-Islamic body, in Istanbul next week to display joint action over Jerusalem.
Jordan and the Palestinians also called for an emergency meeting of the Arab League.
Most of the international community does not formally recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, insisting the issue can only be resolved in negotiations – a point reiterated by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in the wake of Trump’s decision.
Guterres implicitly criticized Trump, stressing his opposition to ‘any unilateral measures that would jeopardize the prospect of peace.’
A child holds a Palestinian flag as he chants slogans during a sit-in in the Bourj al-Barajneh Palestinian refugee camp, in Beirut, Lebanon
A woman chants slogans during a sit-in in the Bourj al-Barajneh Palestinian refugee camp in Beirut, Lebanon
But Trump insisted the move did not prejudge final talks, saying it simply reflected the reality that west Jerusalem is and will continue to be part of Israel under any settlement.
‘This is nothing more or less than a recognition of reality. It is also the right thing to do,’ Trump said.
‘Peace is never beyond the grasp of those willing to reach it,’ said the US leader, who declared that ‘this decision is not intended in any way to reflect a departure from our strong commitment to facilitate a lasting peace.’
‘The United States would support a two-state solution if agreed to by both sides,’ Trump said, as he announced that Vice President Mike Pence would travel to the region in the coming days.
Trump further stated that the United States was not taking a position on 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.’
Israel seized the largely Arab eastern sector of Jerusalem during the 1967 Six-Day War and later annexed it, claiming both sides of the city as its capital.
The Palestinians want the eastern sector as the capital of their future state.
Trump was pushed to act on the embassy as a result of a 1995 law, which stated that the city ‘should be recognized as the capital of the state of Israel’ and the US embassy be moved there.
A waiver has been invoked by successive US presidents, postponing the move on grounds of ‘national security’ once every six months, meaning the law has never taken effect.
Several peace plans have unravelled in the past decades over the issue of how to divide sovereignty or oversee holy sites in Jerusalem.
Why is Jerusalem important, what makes Donald Trump’s intervention so toxic and does anyone else recognise the city as Israel’s capital?: SAM GREENHILL explores why today’s announcement is so incendiary
What is the status of Jerusalem?
Israel set up its parliament in West Jerusalem when the state of Israel was proclaimed in 1948. The move followed the United Nations’ vote to partition Palestine on the basis of the British pledge known as the Balfour Declaration that paved the way for a homeland for the Jewish people.
Israel occupied 78 per cent of the land, with the remaining 22 per cent split between Gaza and the West Bank.
Then, in 1967, during the Six-Day Arab-Israeli war, Israel annexed Arab-controlled East Jerusalem, including the Old City. Israel has claimed ever since that both parts of the city are its ‘undivided’ capital.
However, Palestinians want East Jerusalem as their capital. Most countries, including Britain, do not recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and keep their embassies in Tel Aviv.
Why is Jerusalem so important to both sides?
Chiefly because of its religious history. The Temple Mount in the Old City is the most sacred place in Judaism — the site of Solomon’s Temple said to have housed the Ark of the Covenant and destroyed in 586 BC by King of Babylon.
The site is also the third holiest shrine in Islam, known to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif (‘Noble Sanctuary’). It was the scene of Prophet Muhammad’s ‘Night Journey’ ascension from Earth to Heaven in 621. The compound includes Islamic shrines the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
The city is also sacred to Christians — Jesus attended a temple in the Old City and was crucified on a hill outside its walls. But it also has hugely important implications for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
What has Donald Trump done and why is his intervention so toxic?
Until now, peacemakers have pursued the strategy that Jerusalem would be part of an overall negotiated settlement, with its status decided in the latter stages of peace talks, with agreement on both sides. But if America jumps to a conclusion on the city’s status now — and takes Israel’s side — many fear it will undermine the chances of a peace deal. It could also damage America’s position as an ‘honest broker’ between the two sides.
It does not take much to spark violence in the Middle East. In 2000, the Second Intifada — two bloody years of Palestinian suicide bombings and Israeli military killings — started after a visit by the then leader of the Israeli opposition, Ariel Sharon, to the Old City site.
The Temple Mount in the Old City is the most sacred place in Judaism — the site of Solomon’s Temple said to have housed the Ark of the Covenant and destroyed in 586 BC by King of Babylon. The compound includes Islamic shrines the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque
How can the status of Jerusalem be peacefully resolved?
Jerusalem is described as the most intractable part of the world’s most intractable conflict. But one of the main planks of the peace process is a two-state solution — in which Jerusalem would serve as capital of both states: East Jerusalem for Palestine, West Jerusalem for Israel.
About a third of the people living in Jerusalem are Palestinians. An uneasy co-existence is lived out day-to-day, under the watchful eyes of clusters of armed Israeli police.
Though there is generally free movement around the divided capital, Israeli security forces set up checkpoints to seal off Palestinian neighbourhoods in times of tension, such as a wave of stabbings in 2015.
Since 1967, Israel has built a dozen settlements, home to about 200,000 Jews, in East Jerusalem. These are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.
Jerusalem is governed by a mayor and city council whose members are elected to four-year terms. Palestinian Arabs living in East Jerusalem have the right to vote in Israeli elections, but most refuse to do so.
Mr Trump could now have catastrophically undermined his own Middle East strategy of trying to forge peace — not just between Israel and Palestinians, but also between Israel and Saudi Arabia’s Sunni Muslims
How does Trump justify moving the U.S. embassy?
The U.S. embassy is currently in Tel Aviv. To move it to Jerusalem would be a powerfully symbolic and inflammatory gesture in support of Israel and in defiance of Palestinians.
But technically Trump has a legal framework: in 1995, amid lobbying from pro-Israel Americans, the Republican-controlled Congress passed a law, the Jerusalem Embassy Act, which instructs the President to move the embassy. But all Presidents since Bill Clinton have signed a waiver every six months to prevent that happening.
So why has he done this now?
Mr Trump’s move seems driven not by diplomatic calculations, but by a campaign promise and his current low ratings.
In 2016, he appealed to Christian evangelicals and ardently pro-Israel American Jews by vowing to move the embassy. His pledge was extremely popular with these voters, including casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, who donated $25 million to the Trump cause. Mr Adelson expressed anger when Mr Trump signed the waiver in June to keep the embassy in Tel Aviv. Advisers said this week Mr Trump was making good on his promise.
Why are all the Arab countries so hostile to the move?
Opinion polls show that at least 90 per cent of Arabs view Israel as their main enemy. So no Arab regime can risk provoking internal political upheaval by appearing to side with the U.S.
Mr Trump could now have catastrophically undermined his own Middle East strategy of trying to forge peace — not just between Israel and Palestinians, but also between Israel and Saudi Arabia’s Sunni Muslims.
He wants the Saudis to take on and curb the growing influence of Iran’s Shia Muslims — the Sunni’s mortal enemies — and their allies in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. The Saudis could now be forced to abandon their gradual clandestine move towards open acceptance of the Jewish state.
Opinion polls show that at least 90 per cent of Arabs view Israel as their main enemy. So no Arab regime can risk provoking internal political upheaval by appearing to side with the U.S
Do other countries recognise Jerusalem as the capital?
The world — including China — is virtually united in not recognising Israel’s claim to Jerusalem as its undivided capital.
One exception is the Pacific island of Vanuatu, which recognised it in May this year. Its late president, Baldwin Lonsdale, was an evangelical Christian who was described as having ‘a strong connection to the Jewish people and to Israel’.
Taiwan also considers Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. However, Israel does not even recognise Taiwan as a country.
Russia’s position is slightly ambiguous but seems to leave room for the city to be Israel’s capital in the event of a peace deal.