A wary response to Trump’s expected recognition of Jerusalem

The Damascus Gate to Jerusalem’s Old City. (photo: Bernat Armangue / AP)

President Trump is expected to break decades of precedent by declaring Jerusalem the capital of Israel.

By David Halbfinger | New York Times | Dec 2, 2017

“Pushing this issue now, in advance of a peace process at a time when the administration has zero credibility on this issue, at a time when it wants to engage the Saudis, makes absolutely no sense. It’s a self-inflicted wound.”
— Aaron David Miller, former Mideast peace negotiator under past Republican and Democratic administrations

There were warnings of a new Palestinian uprising and calls for protests at United States embassies, dire predictions that hopes for peace would be dashed irretrievably — and expressions of relief from Israelis who have waited a half-century for the world to remove the asterisk next to this city’s name.

Yet on the whole, the responses in the region to reports that President Trump will recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel — something no president has done in the nearly 70 years since Israel’s founding — remained hedged, if not entirely restrained, on Saturday. Arabs and Israelis alike were impatient to see whether Mr. Trump would really do it, precisely how he would define Jerusalem, and what else he might say or do to qualify the change.

Mr. Trump’s announcement, expected in a speech on Wednesday, would amount to the not-quite fulfillment of a campaign promise to move the United States Embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, a step for which many of Mr. Trump’s Jewish and evangelical supporters, and their allies in the Israeli right wing, have been clamoring.

For Israelis, it would acknowledge the obvious: that their government sits in Jerusalem, mainly on its western side — though the United States, along with the rest of the world, has not recognized the Holy City as Israeli territory, particularly since the Arab-Israeli War of 1967, when Israel conquered East Jerusalem. . . .

Yet of all the issues that have defied resolution despite decades of talks between Palestinians and Israelis, the final status of Jerusalem — with its sites holy to Jews, Christians and Muslims, and warring claims dating back to the Crusades and the Romans — has been uniquely nettlesome.

The United States has taken pains to refrain from recognizing the Holy City as Israel’s capital precisely to avoid being seen as prejudging the outcome of peace talks, in which Palestinians seek to make East Jerusalem the seat of their eventual government.

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