IN-DEPTH: TRUMP'S JERUSALEM DECLARATION
On Wednesday, in a controversial address from the White House, President Trump officially recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital city and announced that he had started the process of moving the US embassy there from Tel Aviv. The move was a fulfillment of a campaign promise from Trump, which he termed an acknowledgment of "the obvious," and "nothing more or less than a recognition of reality." Trump also signed a proclamation officially recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital and supporting "a two-state solution to the dispute between the Israelis and the Palestinians."
A 1995 US law, the Jerusalem Embassy Act, called on the US to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital, but has been typically ignored by presidents who worried about triggering instability in the region. As both Palestinians and Israelis lay claim to at least a portion of the city of Jerusalem, other countries have placed embassies in Tel Aviv to avoid the issue entirely. East Jerusalem, in particular, is home to holy sites sacred to Christians, Jews and Muslims.
Trump's decision was praised by several Jewish-American and evangelical Christian groups. David Harris of the American Jewish Committee hailed Trump, saying he "asserted US global leadership towards ending a longstanding, senseless anomaly" while the Anti-Defamation League called the move "a significant step." Other religious leaders in the US were less resoundingly positive. The Reform Jewish Movement, which represents about 900 US congregations, questioned moving the embassy without an otherwise comprehensive peace plan for the region in place. Bishop Elizabeth Eaton of the largest Lutheran group in the US warned that the announcement "has a high probability of leading to violence and bloodshed."
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed gratitude to President Trump, and vowed that Israel was in touch with other countries "to follow suit." Though Netanyahu didn't specifically mention other nations that had considered moving embassies to Jerusalem, Israeli media has pointed to the Philippines as a possibility. Within hours of Trump's speech, the Czech Republic released its own statement recognizing West Jerusalem as Israel's capital.
Pope Francis expressed anxiety about the decision during his weekly address at the Vatican, and made "a heartfelt appeal to ensure that everyone is committed to respecting the status quo of the city." He also urged world leaders to "avoid adding new elements of tension in a world already shaken and scarred by many cruel conflicts." UN Secretary General António Guterres took issue with "unilateral measures that would jeopardize the prospect of peace for Israelis and Palestinians," and urged "direct negotiations between the two parties... taking into account the legitimate concerns of both the Palestinian and the Israeli sides."
Ismail Haniya, the leader of Hamas, the fundamentalist organization that governs the Gaza Strip, called for a new Palestinian uprising - or intifada - "in the face of the Zionist enemy." Hamas called for a "Day of Rage" on Friday that would kick off the protest movement. This would mark the third intifada since the late 1990s; both of the previous uprisings led to hundreds of deaths on both sides. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said that the decision eliminates the US as a viable mediator for ongoing peace process negotiations. His rival Fatah movement will apparently push back against the decision via diplomatic means, through the United Nations. Hassan Nasrallah, leader of the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, called for a sustained diplomatic campaign to fight against "undisguised American aggression" towards Palestinians.
Following the speech, 17 Palestinians were wounded in a string of protests throughout the Gaza Strip and West Bank, with 1 person left in critical condition. Protesters threw stones and set tires on fire, while Israeli troops responded by firing tear gas, rubber bullets and, in some cases, live rounds.
As for the speech itself, some viewers on social media reported hearing the President slur some of his words during the presentation. Some pundits mused that it might be a result of speaking through dentures or recent dental work. The White House claims the President's mouth was simply dry.