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Trump says US recognizes Jerusalem as capital of Israel, sparking protests

Tracy Wilkinson and Brian Bennett, Tribune Washington Bureau on

Published in News & Features

"There will of course be disagreement and dissent regarding this announcement, but we are confident that ultimately, as we work through these disagreements, we will arrive at a place of greater understanding and cooperation."

Many Israelis were ecstatic, praising Trump for recognizing the reality on the ground. The government of Israel has controlled all of Jerusalem since the 1967 war, and the Knesset and most government agencies are based there.

But Palestinians, who claim east Jerusalem as the capital of their eventual independent state, were furious, as were U.S. allies throughout Europe and the Arab world.

Many Middle East experts in Washington also were dismayed by Trump's plan to change U.S. recognition of a city revered as holy by all three monotheistic faiths: Judaism, Islam and Christianity.

"There is no upside to this. What does he gain?" asked Daniel Kurtzer, who served as U.S. ambassador to Israel under President George W. Bush. "And for them to say this could jump-start the peace process, it shows they don't have a clue about peace" in the Middle East.

"It's really all pain and no gain," said Jeremy Ben-Ami, the president of J Street, an American group that lobbies on Israel from a liberal Jewish perspective. "The situation on the ground for the state of Israel and the Jewish people doesn't change for the better."

 

Martin Indyk, who served twice as U.S. ambassador to Israel and was a special Middle East envoy under President Obama, said Trump's decision to declare Jerusalem the capital but delay moving the embassy was "an attempt to have it both ways."

"It will please nobody," Indyk said on CNN, "and it could well generate violence."

Scattered violence was reported early Wednesday in Palestinian territories, including the burning of U.S. and Israeli flags in the Gaza Strip. U.S. embassies and consulates throughout the region were put on alert in anticipation of potential protests.

Palestinians declared "three days of rage," pegged to peak after Friday prayers. U.S. officials also prepared for demonstrations outside the State Department headquarters in Washington.

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