December 8, 2017 Laura Kyle / Al Jazeera & Jaclynn Ashly / Al Jazeera
For decades American presidential candidates from both parties have promised to move the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. But once elected they have retreated from the idea. On Wednesday, Donald Trump changed that. He overruled his top political and military advisers to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital and announce plans to relocate the US embassy. Trump's decision has been widely condemned and has sparked protests in many parts of the Middle East and the wider Muslim world.
Jerusalem: A Momentous Change, But at What Cost? Laura Kyle / Al Jazeera News
(December 6, 2017) -- Donald Trump upends decades of US policy with a single announcement, but its long-term impact remains uncertain.
For decades American presidential candidates from both parties have promised to move the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. But once elected they have retreated from the idea. On Wednesday, Donald Trump changed that. He overruled his top political and military advisers to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital and announce plans to relocate the US embassy.
To give you a sense of how unusual that is: Of all the countries that maintain formal diplomatic relations with Israel, not one currently has an embassy in Jerusalem. And the few that have had embassies there in the past have been small countries with little connection to the Middle East, such as Costa Rica and El Salvador.
Trump's decision has been widely condemned and has sparked protests in many parts of the Middle East and the wider Muslim world. It remains to be seen, however, exactly what will change and how fast those changes will be.
While making his much-anticipated announcement in Washington, DC on Wednesday night, Trump also signed a new national security waiver, exactly the same sort of waiver regarding the embassy move that every US president has signed twice each year for more than two decades.
He also said that actually building a new embassy and moving American diplomats into it is a process that will take a minimum of several years.
There is no question, however, that Trump's move will alter the diplomatic and political situation on the ground. The question is: How?
BETHLEHEM, OCCUPIED WEST BANK (December 7, 2017) -- Hundreds of Palestinians marched through Bethlehem in a "day of rage" protest against Donald Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital, as anger over the controversial decision continues to spread across the occupied Palestinian territories.
Israeli military forces shot tear gas and rubber bullets at Palestinian protesters in Bethlehem on Thursday, and at least seven youths were injured in the clashes, including one small child.
Men, women and children participated in the march, which was among several held in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem, as well as in major cities across the region, throughout the day. Palestinian leaders also declared a general strike across the Palestinian territories.
"I am seeing people at this protest that never come out to these kinds of demonstration," Rabee Alsos, 32, told Al Jazeera in Bethlehem. "Jerusalem and al-Aqsa [Mosque] means a lot to everyone here, even the children. This [US] decision is a big mistake."
Trump announced on Wednesday that he was recognising Jerusalem as Israel's capital and that he would begin the process of moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to the city, to the disbelief of Palestinians and world leaders.
No country currently has its embassy in Jerusalem.
West Jerusalem was seized by Israel during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, when more than 750,000 Palestinians were expelled from historic Palestine, referred to by Palestinians as the Nakba (catastrophe) when Israel was officially founded.
Israel subsequently occupied and annexed the eastern part of the city after its military victory in the 1967 war, but its control over East Jerusalem has never been recognised by the international community. Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state, while Israel says the city cannot be divided.
While Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel's prime minister, thanked Trump for this week's decision, Palestinian leaders declared three "days of rage" to protest the controversial move.
Munther Amira, head of the Bethlehem-based popular struggle coordination committee, told Al Jazeera that Jerusalem is a "red line" for Palestinians.
"This decision is against international law and against our rights as Palestinians," said Amira, his eyes bloodshot red from tear gas during the protest in Bethlehem. "Years of negotiations in this peace process [were] based on a two-state solution, with East Jerusalem as our capital," said Amira, adding that the decision will lead to a "new intifada", or uprising, against both Trump and Israel. "Trump did not just announce that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. He has shown us clearly that the US and Israel are the same thing."
Some Palestinians at the protest said they had never been able to visit Jerusalem. Israel maintains strict control over access to Jerusalem, and Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza Strip need special Israeli-issued permits to enter the holy city. But Alsos said he was protesting for his six-year-old daughter, whom he said "deserves to see Jerusalem."
"I want her to have a future here in Palestine," he said.
During the protest, a group of Israeli settlers came to watch and stood behind the Israeli soldiers.
Another Palestinian protester, Ramzi, who did not give Al Jazeera his last name in fear of reprisals, said that Palestinians were "thirsty" for Jerusalem and called on Trump to officially apologise to Palestinians.
"America is biased in favour of the [Israeli] occupation," the 15-year-old told Al Jazeera. "But we are ready to sacrifice ourselves for Jerusalem. I am ready to sleep in Jerusalem's alleys until it is liberated."
Jihad, 24, who also did not give Al Jazeera his last name, said that while Palestinians have reacted with anger, their response remains limited.
"We don't have guns or planes to fight these soldiers," he told Al Jazeera. "We know throwing these stones does not have much of an impact, but this is a symbol of our rejection of Trump's decision."
Jihad added: "How can Trump give away a land that he does not own?" The Crusades, An Arab Perspective - Part 1: Shock
Erdogan: US Jerusalem Move Puts Region in "Ring of Fire" Al Jazeera
ANKARA (December 6, 2017) -- Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan has criticised US President Donald Trump's decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital, saying it would throw this region into "a ring of fire".
"Taking such a step throws particularly this region into a ring of fire. What would you like to do [with this step], Mr. Trump? What kind of stance is it?" Erdogan said on Thursday, at Esenboga Airport in the capital Ankara, before leaving for a visit to Greece.
Breaking with decades of US policy, Trump on Wednesday announced the transfer of American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, formally recognising the contested city as the capital of Israel despite widespread international opposition.
"I have determined that it is time to officially recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel," he said in a speech in Washington.
Ignite a 'Powder Keg'
US analysts say Trump's announcement might risk igniting a "powder keg" at the heart of the Israel-Palestine conflict.
"Jerusalem has a tendency to explode when you fool around with the status quo," said Aaron David Miller, vice president at the Woodrow Wilson Center and a former Middle East adviser to the Clinton and Bush administrations.
The Turkish president, who had earlier warned that the status of Jerusalem was a red line for Muslims, said that the US decision disregarded a 1980 United Nations resolution regarding the status of the city. He added that political leaders should work to bring peace, not stir things up.
Calling Jerusalem "also a sanctuary for Christians," Erdogan added that he would speak to Pope Francis about Trump's decision this evening or on Friday. Turkey will host an extraordinary meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC) on December 13 to discuss the US move.
Jerusalem at the Core of the Conflict
Jerusalem remains at the core of the Israel-Palestine conflict, with Palestinians hoping that East Jerusalem might eventually serve as the capital of a future Palestinian state.
Israel illegally occupied Palestinian territories in the 1967 war, including East Jerusalem in defiance of the international community, and wasted no time in declaring the city as its "eternal, undivided" capital.
Trump had promised to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem during his election campaign.
Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, said Trump "destroyed any possibility of peace" and was "pushing this region towards chaos [and] violence".
"He is destroying all moderates in the region and giving power to extremists," Erekat told Al Jazeera. "This is the most dangerous decision that any US president has ever taken."
Erekat said it is "meaningless" to have a Palestinian state without Jerusalem as its capital.
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