WASHINGTON, DC — President Donald Trump declared on Wednesday that the United States will recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, fulfilling a campaign promise and drastically shifting American foreign policy to the volatile Middle East. While many have long advocated that an American president should take the step, others argue it will only raise tensions in an already unstable conflict. You can watch a replay of the announcement below.
"All challenges demand new approaches," Trump said as he began his speech. "It is time to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel."
The president called the move "overdue" and in the best interests of the United States. He said recognition acknowledged the "obvious" that Jerusalem is the seat of Israel's government despite the disputed status that is one of the key elements in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The State Department will also begin to make preparations to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, Trump said. He also reiterated support for a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict, as long as both sides agree.
"Today we call for calm, moderation," Trump said.
He continued: "Jerusalem is not just the heart of three major religions but also the heart of one of world's most successful democracies."
Moving the embassy and declaring Jerusalem to be Israel's capital is a controversial issue. Split claims between Israelis and Palestinians over the historic city — viewed by many as sacred — are a central point of contention in the ongoing regional conflict. Some fear that Trump's decision to back Israel's claim over the city as its capital, without the context of a larger peace deal, could alienate many Palestinians and their allies and trigger a backlash.
Trump promised during the presidential campaign to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital.
Israel claims all of Jerusalem as its capital, while the Palestinians claim the city's eastern sector, captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war, as the capital of a future independent state.
Even America's closest allies in Europe questioned the wisdom of Trump's radical departure from the past U.S. position, which was studiously neutral over the sovereignty of the city. America's consulate in Jerusalem has 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.
Watch Clip: Trump's Jerusalem Embassy Decision Faces Major Backlash
The conflict between the claims is focused largely on the Old City, home to Jerusalem's most important Jewish, Christian and Muslim holy sites, and in particular on a hilltop compound revered by Jews and Muslims. The compound, known to Jews as the Temple Mount, is the spot where the biblical Jewish Temples stood thousands of years ago and is considered the holiest site in Judaism. Today, it is home to the Al Aqsa Mosque, the third-holiest site in Islam, and the iconic gold-topped Dome of the Rock.
While Israel controls the city and its government is based there, its annexation of east Jerusalem is not internationally recognized. The international community overwhelmingly says the final status of Jerusalem should be resolved through negotiations.'
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, at trip to NATO headquarters in Brussels, got an earful from many a U.S. ally on Trump's Jerusalem move. So far, not a single country — other than Israel, of course — has thrown its support behind the declaration. Even Tillerson's own State Department has conceded the announcement could sow unrest throughout the Middle East.
Turkey's top diplomat, Mevlut Cavusoglu, was unsparing in criticism that was far harsher than any the U.S. is accustomed to from a NATO ally.
"The whole world is against this," Cavusoglu told reporters as he awaited Tillerson's arrival for their meeting. He said he'd already told Trump's chief diplomat that it was a "grave mistake." Cavusoglu said he planned to "tell him again."
That time-tested "special relationship" with Britain? Not so special as to prevent Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson from putting Tillerson on the spot. After the two shook hands, Johnson used the occasion to suggest it was time for Trump's Mideast peace team to put up or shut up.
"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, and I would say that that should happen as a matter of priority," Johnson said as Tillerson stood uneasily a few feet away.
Some leaders of major Christian denominations in the Holy Land appealed to Trump ahead of the speech to rethink the decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital. They say in a letter that Trump's steps will mean "increased hatred, conflict, violence and suffering in Jerusalem and the Holy Land."
Their letter asked Trump to walk toward "more love and a definitive peace" by continuing to recognize the international status of Jerusalem.
And they say that "any sudden changes would cause irreparable harm."
The letter was signed by all of the city's major church figures, including the Greek Orthodox patriarch, Theophilos III, and Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the Roman Catholic apostolic administrator.
Watch the speech below.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Photo by Chris Kleponis-Pool/Getty Images
Source : https://patch.com/us/white-house/watch-live-trump-gives-speech-jerusalem-israels-capital946