Commodities: Palestinians Say U.S. Risks Its Role as Peace Broker

By Rory Jones 

TEL AVIV — Palestinians and their supporters condemned President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the American Embassy there from Tel Aviv, warning it all but ended any U.S. role in brokering peace negotiations and could provoke Muslim violence.

Israel welcomed the move. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, “The president’s decision is an important step toward peace, for there is no peace that doesn’t include Jerusalem as the capital of the state of Israel.”

But Palestinian officials said the U.S. could no longer be an honest broker in peace talks.

“These measures, which are denounced and rejected, are a deliberate undermining of all efforts to achieve peace, and is a declaration of the withdrawal of the United States from playing the role which it has played over the past decades as a peace broker,” Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said after Mr. Trump announced the move on Wednesday.

Ayman Safadi, Jordan’s foreign minister, responded to the decision on Twitter, saying that recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital frustrates peace efforts and provokes both Muslims and Christians. “Jordan rejects decision & all its implications, will continue to work for an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital, ” he tweeted.

Ahead of Mr. Trump’s speech, Mr. Abbas and the leaders of Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and Egypt had all warned that the White House decision could provoke violence not just in the Palestinian territories but the wider Arab world. Pope Francis expressed “deep concern” over the U.S. decision.

European and Arab diplomats also warned in advance of Mr. Trump’s speech that such a shift in U.S. policy could spark violence in the Middle East and raised questions about whether the White House has a broad strategy in the region.

Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, has been working on a Middle East peace effort for months but hasn’t unveiled the details of a strategy.

Mr. Netanyahu and his cabinet ministers urged other countries to follow the U.S. lead and move their embassies from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Some Israeli politicians said the U.S. decision will signal to the Palestinians that they have to acknowledge the Israeli connection to Jerusalem as a basis for peace talks. Others just welcomed the acknowledgment of the city that they have long considered their capital.

“Jerusalem always was and will remain our capital,” Yair Lapid, leader of the centrist Yesh Atid party tweeted.

Israel captured the eastern half of Jerusalem in the 1967 Six Day War and annexed it soon after. Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state. The international community doesn’t recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and all embassies are currently located in Tel Aviv.

After Mr. Trump’s speech, Turkey foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, condemned what he called “the irresponsible statement” recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and announcing the move of the U.S. Embassy. “This decision is against international law and relevant UN Resolutions,” he tweeted.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry condemned the U.S. moves, saying the declaration of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital “will provoke Muslims…[and] instigate extremism as well as aggressive and violent behaviors.”

The Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, didn’t immediately respond to the U.S. decision. But it had already called for “days of rage” in anticipation of Mr. Trump’s announcement and leader Ismail Haniyeh said U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel would cross “all the red lines.”

The U.S. had also been working with Saudi Arabia and other allies to create a coalition of states that could counterbalance Iranian influence in the region. But the decision over Jerusalem could upend those efforts while reinforcing Iran’s narrative that the White House is anti-Muslim, foreign diplomats say.

The U.S. State Department had warned its embassies around the world to prepare for possible protests and violence and banned travel by government employees and their families to Jerusalem’s Old City and the West Bank.

Israel’s security forces also are bracing for violence and protest over the coming days. Hundreds of protesters took to the streets in Bethlehem after Mr. Trump’s speech and burned pictures of the U.S. leader. Demonstrations were called by Palestinian leaders for Thursday in cities across the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

–Asa Fitch in Dubai, Margherita Stancati in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and Francis X. Rocca in Rome contributed to this article.

Write to Rory Jones at [email protected]

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