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Palestinians say Trump Jerusalem decision ‘biggest mistake of his life’

Posted at 5:08 PM, Dec 06, 2017

Top Palestinian officials condemned US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, saying the decision would bolster extremists’ calls for holy wars and delegitimize the United States as an arbiter in the peace process.

“These procedures do also help in the extremist organizations to wage a religious war that would harm the entire region, which is going through critical moments and would lead us into wars that will never end, which we have warned about and always urged to fight against,” Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said in a televised address following the US announcement.

Trump’s move means the US can no longer play a role in the peace process, said Palestinian Liberation Organization Secretary-General Saeb Erekat.

“President Trump just destroyed any possibility of a two-state (solution),” Erekat, who is also the Palestinian chief negotiator, said in a statement.

“President Trump tonight made the biggest mistake of his life,” Erekat told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour. “Instead of encouraging the parties to sit together, the parties to put all core issues including Jerusalem on the table and negotiate in good faith, he dictates.”

Israeli officials have worked to demolish a two-state solution, he said.

Hamas, France and UN Secretary-General António Guterres joined the chorus of criticism targeting Trump following his Wednesday announcement that the US would soon move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

While Trump and his Israeli allies have said the city is key to regional stability, detractors — who include important US allies such as Jordan’s King Abdullah II — say the move promises not only to destabilize the region, but scuttle any hopes of an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal.

Guterres said the move jeopardizes the prospect of peace. Jerusalem’s status should be resolved only via negotiations between Israel and Palestinians, he said.

“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 said. “It is only by realizing the vision of two states living side-by-side in peace, security and mutual recognition, with Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and Palestine, and all final status issues resolved permanently through negotiations, that the legitimate aspirations of both peoples will be achieved.”

Speaking in Algiers, French President Emmanuel Macron called Trump’s decision “regrettable” and said the new American policy “contravenes international law.”

That stance was echoed by Amnesty International Middle East advocacy director Raed Jarrar, who released a statement calling the move “reckless and provocative.”

“There is international consensus, including UN Security Council resolutions, on the illegality of Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem. With this move, the United States is violating its own international legal obligations not to recognize or assist an illegal situation and to ensure respect for the Geneva Conventions,” Jarrar said. “No country in the world recognizes Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem, making the decision to confer US recognition deeply troubling.”

Sami Abu Zuhri, a spokesman for Hamas, the governing authority in Gaza, also decried the move, tweeting, “Trump’s decision will not succeed in changing the reality of Jerusalem being Islamic Arab land. This decision is foolish and time will tell that the biggest losers are Trump and (Israeli President Benjamin) Netanyahu.”

Netanyahu called on other nations to follow Trump’s lead.

Saying “Jerusalem has been the capital of the Jewish people for 3,000 years,” Netanyahu praised Trump and called the move an “important step towards peace, for there is no peace that doesn’t include Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel.”

Concerns before decision announced

Even before Trump’s announcement, the move spurred denunciations from regional and world figures.

“There is no alternative to a two-state solution, and Jerusalem is key to any peace agreement,” said King Abdullah, speaking in Ankara alongside Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who also opposes Trump’s move.

Abdullah said he had “reemphasized our concerns” to Trump about recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

“It is imperative to work fast to reach a final status solution and a peace agreement,” he said.

The Jordanian King added that any such agreement must allow for an independent Palestinian state and that “ignoring Palestinian Muslim and Christian rights” in the holy city “could fuel terrorism.”

Abdullah is the custodian of the Muslim holy sites in the Old City of Jerusalem.

Erdogan warned that a wrong step taken in Jerusalem would cause a reaction across the Islamic world that could destroy the foundations for peace.

Regarding Trump, Erdogan said, “No one person’s personal ambitions should be allowed to alter the fates of billions of people. Any such move would only embolden terrorist organizations.”

The Trump administration cast the landmark step as a “recognition of reality” that Jerusalem has long been the seat of the Israeli government. In announcing the move, Trump stressed that the decision would have no impact on the boundaries of future Israeli and Palestinian states as negotiated under a final status agreement.

Netanyahu vowed there would be no change with regard to the city’s many holy sites.

“Israel will always ensure freedom of worship for Jews, Christians and Muslims alike,” he said.

PLO: ‘Death knell of any peace process’

Palestinian factions called for three “days of rage” in protest, and the US State Department has issued a travel warning for the West Bank and Jerusalem’s Old City.

“It means the death knell of any peace process,” said Hanan Ashrawi, an executive committee member of the Palestine Liberation Organization.

The announcement moves Trump one step closer to fulfilling his campaign pledge to relocate the US Embassy to Jerusalem — a move long sought by Israel, but set aside by previous US presidents due to regional security concerns and because the international community had agreed that Jerusalem’s status would be resolved as part of a negotiated agreement between Israelis and Palestinians. Both sides claim the holy city as their capital.

No countries have embassies in Jerusalem.

Iran: ‘Palestine will be free’

Ahead of his announcement, Trump spoke Tuesday to Abbas, King Abdullah, Egypt’s Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and Saudi Arabia’s King Salman.

Those conversations prompted regional statements opposing the plan, warning it will undermine stability and scuttle any hopes of peace for the foreseeable future.

Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, posted on his official Twitter account that the US decision was made “out of despair and debility.”

“On issue of #Palestine their hands are tied and they can’t achieve their goals,” he tweeted. “Palestine will be free. Palestinian nation will achieve victory.”

Kremlin: ‘Serious concern’

Other leading international figures voiced concern about Trump’s decision.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters during a regularly scheduled call that President Vladimir Putin had spoken to Abbas on Tuesday and expressed “serious concern for possible deterioration of the situation.”

Peskov said that the situation in Jerusalem was “not easy.”

British Prime Minister Theresa May said the UK position on Jerusalem continued to be that “the status of Jerusalem should be determined in a negotiated settlement between Israel and the Palestinians.” The city “ultimately should form a shared capital” between a secure Israel and a viable Palestinian state, she said.

Pope Francis called for wisdom and prudence to prevail with regards to Jerusalem, to prevent further tensions in a conflict-torn world.

“I cannot remain silent about my deep concern for the situation that has developed in recent days and at the same time, I wish to make a heartfelt appeal to ensure that everyone is committed to respecting the status quo of the city, in accordance with the relevant resolutions of the United Nations,” he said.

“Jerusalem is a unique city, sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims, where the holy places for the respective religions are venerated and it has a special vocation to peace.”

Israeli response

The Israeli government has praised Trump’s move.

President Reuven Rivlin hailed Trump’s recognition as a “beautiful gift”

“Jerusalem is not, and never will be, an obstacle to peace for those who want peace,” he said in a statement that quoted Psalm 122. “As it is written, ‘Pray for the peace of Jerusalem, may all that love her prosper, may there be peace in her quarters and palaces.'”

Meanwhile, Yair Lapid, leader of the opposition Yesh Atid party, called on the entire world to recognize a united Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and urged recognition of Israel’s full sovereignty over the disputed Golan Heights.

“The new reality in Syria is that Iran is going from boots on the ground to roots in the ground. This is why there is no scenario in which Israel can, or should ever, be expected to return the Golan Heights,” Lapid said, speaking at the same diplomatic conference where Netanyahu made his remarks.

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat told CNN that Trump’s decision was “the right thing to do, and here in Jerusalem and Israel we applaud the President.”

Asked if he was worried that violence might result from the move, Barkat said: “The state of Israel would never be what it is today if we would be deterred by violence.”