Donald Trump recognises Jerusalem as Israel's capital, in reversal of decades of policy

Donald Trump recognises Jerusalem as Israel's capital, in reversal of decades of policy

Donald Trump recognises Jerusalem as Israel's capital, in reversal of decades of policy

Updated 7 December 2017, 17:05 AEDT

Leaders around the world, including US allies, condemn the declaration of Jerusalem as Israel's capital as US embassies in the Middle East and in Europe brace for potentially violent protests.

US President Donald Trump has been accused of dealing a "death sentence" to the Middle East peace process by recognising Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

Key points:

  • Donald Trump says US embassy moving to Jerusalem
  • Israeli PM welcomes move as "historic landmark"
  • Hamas, Iran, Qatar among first to condemn move

Leaders around the world, including US allies, have condemned the move as US embassies in the Middle East and Europe braced for potentially violent protests in the wake of the announcement.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, British Prime Minister Theresa May and a host of Middle Eastern leaders were among those criticising Mr Trump's "dangerous escalation" of hostilities.

In Gaza, hundreds of Palestinian protesters burned American and Israeli flags, while several hundred protesters gathered outside the US consulate in Istanbul, with some throwing coins and other objects at the building.

Hundreds of protesters also chanted anti-American slogans in Jordan's capital, Amman, which is inhabited by Palestinian refugees.

Mr Trump reversed decades of US policy by recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, despite warnings from around the world that the gesture would further inflame Middle East tensions.

In a speech at the White House, Mr Trump said his administration would also begin a process of moving the US embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which is expected to take years.

Mr Trump called his decision a "long overdue" step to advance the peace process.

"We cannot solve our problems by making the same failed assumptions and repeating the same failed strategies of the past," he said.

"I have determined that it is time to officially recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

"While previous presidents have made this a major campaign promise, they failed to deliver. Today, I am delivering."

Trump 'crossing red lines', chief Palestinian negotiator says

Condemnation was quick to follow Mr Trump's move.

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas said the decision was tantamount to the US abdicating its peace mediator role.

Hamas was angered by a "flagrant aggression against the Palestinian people", while Iran's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it was a violation of international resolutions.

Britain's PM Theresa May said she believed Mr Trump's move was "unhelpful in terms of prospects for peace in the region".

Lebanon's President Michel Aoun said the decision had put back the peace process by decades.

Jordan's government spokesman said the kingdom considered "all unilateral moves that sought to create new facts on the ground as null and void".

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's office said "the future of Jerusalem is not determined by a state or a president but is determined by its history and by the will and determination in the Palestinian cause".

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saed Erekat said Mr Trump was "crossing red lines" with his decision.

"I think tonight he is strengthening the forces of extremists in this region as no-one has done before, this is an act, a statement that is totally uncalled for, totally unacceptable," he said.

Qatar's Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani said the change in policy was a "dangerous escalation and death sentence for all who seek peace".

The UN's Mr Guterres said there was no alternative to a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians and that Jerusalem was a final-status issue that should be resolved through direct talks.

"I have consistently spoken out against any unilateral measures that would jeopardise the prospect of peace for Israelis and Palestinians," Mr Guterres said after Mr Trump's announcement.

"In this moment of great anxiety, I want to make it clear: There is no alternative to the two-state solution. There is no Plan B," he told reporters.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed Mr Trump's announcement as a "historic landmark" and urged other countries also to move their embassies in Israel to Jerusalem.

He said it was an "important step toward peace" and his country was "profoundly grateful".

No plans for Australian embassy, Julie Bishop says

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop made it clear that Australia does not back the Trump administration's decision.

"We've not ever supported unilateral action on either side. We believe that for there to be an enduring peace both sides must come together and negotiate an outcome, that includes on the status of Jerusalem," she said.

Ms Bishop said Australia remained optimistic that a two-state solution was possible, but the President's decision made any negotiations over East Jerusalem "very complex".

She also said Australia had no plans to move its embassy from Tel Aviv.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo said Mr Trump's statement could threaten the stability of global security.

He said he asked the peak body of Islamic countries, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, to hold a special meeting about the issue and told Indonesia's Foreign Minister to summon the US ambassador to express Indonesia's position.

Mr Widodo said Mr Trump's statement violated several UN resolutions and he has asked the UN to take a stand on what he described as a one-sided announcement by the US.

Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi wore a Palestinian scarf on Thursday, "to show a strong commitment of Indonesia and the Indonesian people, to always stand together with the people of Palestine, for their rights".

Palestinians take to streets of Gaza

In Gaza, hundreds of Palestinian protesters burned American and Israeli flags.

They also waved Palestinian flags and banners proclaiming Jerusalem as their "eternal capital", language that Israelis similarly use.

Even America's closest allies in Europe questioned the wisdom of Mr Trump's departure from the past US position, which was studiously neutral over the sovereignty of the city.

"[It is] a regrettable decision that France does not approve … [it] contravenes international law and UN Security Council resolutions," French President Emmanuel Macron said.

The European Union was also among those quick to express concern.

"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," EU Foreign Affairs chief Federica Mogherini said in a statement.

The status of Jerusalem — home to sites holy for the Muslim, Jewish and Christian religions — has been one of the thorniest issues in long-running Mideast peace efforts.

Israel considers the city its eternal and indivisible capital and wants all embassies based there.

Palestinians want the capital of an independent Palestinian state to be in the city's eastern sector, which Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war and annexed in a move never recognised internationally.

Mr Trump's decision is likely to please his core supporters — Republican conservatives and evangelical Christians who comprise an important share of his political base.

Trump aides contend the move reflects the reality of Jerusalem as the centre of Jewish faith and the fact that the city is the seat of the Israeli Government.

ABC/Reuters