New Delhi: United States President Donald Trump on December 6 recognized the disputed city of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
“I have determined that it is time to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel,” Trump said from the White House. “It’s the right thing to do.”
Trump’s declaration calls into question seven decades of deliberate diplomatic ambiguity about the final status of a holy city vociferously claimed by both Israelis and Palestinians.
The decision that overturns decades of US policy and risks triggering a fresh spasm of violence in the Middle East, came hours after Pope Francis appealed to respect the “status quo” of Jerusalem in accordance “with the relevant UN resolutions.”
“I cannot silence my deep concern over the situation that has emerged in recent days. At the same time, I appeal strongly for all to respect the city’s status quo, in accordance with the relevant UN resolutions,” the Pope said, in his weekly address on December 6.
The pontiff has called for “wisdom and prudence” in order to avoid conflict, reported the Fox News.
The Pope also said he was “profoundly concerned” about recent developments regarding Jerusalem, which he called a “special vocation for peace” and a sacred place for Christians, Jews and Muslims.
The Pope, who spoke to the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas about the crises on December 5, made his comments to a group of visiting Palestinians involved in the interfaith dialogue with the Vatican.
At the meeting, the Pope said dialogue between all parties would come only through “recognizing the rights of all people,” noting that the Holy Land was the “land par excellence of dialogue between God and mankind.”
“The primary condition of that dialogue is reciprocal respect and a commitment to strengthening that respect, for the sake of recognizing the rights of all people, wherever they happen to be,” he said.
The US’ plan to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital has drawn criticism from a number of world leaders who fear it would further escalate regional tensions.
Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has warned to cut diplomatic ties with Israel if the United States recognizes Jerusalem as its capital.
Israel captured east Jerusalem, which is home to major Muslim, Christian and Jewish holy sites, in the 1967 Middle East war.
It quickly annexed it, declaring the whole of the city as its capital in a move which has not been recognized internationally.
The Palestinians seek it as a future capital.
Trump also kicked off the process of moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, making good on a campaign promise dear to evangelical Christian and right wing Jewish voters — as well as donors.
He said his decision marked the start of a “new approach” to solving the thorny conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.
Trump’s predecessors — from Bill Clinton to George Bush — made similar promises on the campaign trail, but quickly reneged upon taking office, and the burden of war and peace.
This most unlikely of presidents, who came to office with no foreign policy experience and denouncing experts, 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 hours leading 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.”