Trump or­ders Israel switch

KEY RECOG­NI­TION FOR JERUSALEM U.S. to be­gin plan­ning for em­bassy move

The Washington Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY DAVID NAKAMURA

Pres­i­dent Trump cast his de­ci­sion to rec­og­nize Jerusalem as Israel’s cap­i­tal Wed­nes­day as an ac­cep­tance of re­al­ity that could shake up the stag­nant Mid­dle East peace process by es­tab­lish­ing him as an hon­est bro­ker who brings “fresh think­ing” to old prob­lems.

But even as Trump sought to con­vince Mid­dle East part­ners that the move would not de­rail his com­mit­ment to peace, his re­marks at the White House re­vealed an im­por­tant sub­text that helps ex­plain why the pres­i­dent was will­ing to buck warn­ings from U.S. al­lies and take a risk over the con­tested holy city.

“While pre­vi­ous pres­i­dents have made this a ma­jor cam­paign prom­ise, they failed to de­liver,” Trump said in a mid­day speech in the Diplo­matic Re­cep­tion Room. “To­day, I am de­liv­er­ing.”

As Trump nears the end of his first year in of­fice, his ea­ger­ness to show progress on his agenda ex­tends beyond his push to se­cure a tax bill on Capi­tol Hill this month. He her­alded his pro­nounce­ment on Jerusalem as a

“long-over­due step” and sug­gested his pre­de­ces­sors might have “lacked courage” to make such a de­ci­sion.

Yet in or­der­ing the State De­part­ment to be­gin plan­ning to move the em­bassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem over the next sev­eral years, Trump risked in­flam­ing ten­sions in the re­gion and mak­ing it more dif­fi­cult to forge what he once called the “ul­ti­mate deal” — to bring peace be­tween Is­raelis and Pales­tini­ans.

A White House team led by se­nior ad­viser Jared Kush­ner, Trump’s son-in-law, con­tin­ues to work on a peace plan that is ex­pected to be un­veiled next year. But de­spite con­cerns from some top aides, Trump chose to iso­late the United States from much of the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity on an­other high-stakes diplo­matic is­sue.

The pro­nounce­ment comes af­ter Trump chose this year to with­draw the United States from a global cli­mate pact and to de­cer­tify the Iran nu­clear deal, forc­ing Congress to de­ter­mine whether to hit Tehran with new sanc­tions.

No other coun­try main­tains an em­bassy in Jerusalem, and U.S. al­lies Ger­many, Bri­tain and France ob­jected to the move.

“We can­not solve our prob­lems by mak­ing the same failed as­sump­tions and re­peat­ing the same failed strate­gies of the past,” Trump said, not­ing that a last­ing peace deal be­tween the Is­raelis and Pales­tini­ans has re­mained elu­sive even as the U.S. Em­bassy has re­mained in Tel Aviv.

Though Trump won plau­dits from con­gres­sional law­mak­ers who have pushed for a stronger pro-Israel pol­icy, his an­nounce­ment was met with wide­spread skep­ti­cism among Arab nations.

Thou­sands of Pales­tini­ans demon­strated on the streets in Gaza City in protest, while the mil­i­tant group Ha­mas pre­dicted the move would “open the doors of hell” on U.S. in­ter­ests in the re­gion. Pales­tinian Au­thor­ity Pres­i­dent Mah­moud Ab­bas, who spoke with Trump by phone on Tues­day, slammed the an­nounce­ment as “rep­re­hen­si­ble” and called it a “dec­la­ra­tion of with­drawal” by the United States from the peace process.

The move “would lead us into wars that will never end,” Ab­bas said.

In Brus­sels, in­ter­na­tional of­fi­cials chided Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son dur­ing a NATO gath­er­ing.

“We think it’s an un­wise step and a coun­ter­pro­duc­tive step,” Dutch For­eign Min­is­ter Halbe Zi­jl­stra said. “If we want to solve at some mo­ment the con­flict be­tween the Pales­tini­ans and the Is­raelis, we need a two-state so­lu­tion, and a one-sided step is not go­ing to help.”

Inside the West Wing, Trump was said to be frus­trated by the slow pace of the peace process and anx­ious to move for­ward on a dec­la­ra­tion on Jerusalem as the dead­line ap­proached for him to sign an­other six-month na­tional se­cu­rity waiver to keep the em­bassy in Tel Aviv, as out­lined in a 1995 law.

Though aides said Trump will sign the waiver for a sec­ond time to en­sure that fund­ing for con­struc­tion and main­te­nance is not cut off, he ex­pects the State De­part­ment to be­gin hir­ing ar­chi­tects and en­gi­neers to de­sign a new build­ing in Jerusalem for the 1,000 em­ploy­ees now serv­ing in Tel Aviv.

In his re­marks, Trump in­sisted he is not putting his thumb on the scale for Israel, em­pha­siz­ing that Jerusalem has long served as the head­quar­ters for Israel’s par­lia­ment, Supreme Court and prime min­is­ter’s of­fices.

“I want to make one point very clear: This de­ci­sion is not in­tended in any way to re­flect a de­par­ture from our strong com­mit­ment to fa­cil­i­tate a last­ing peace agree­ment,” Trump said. The de­ci­sion, he said, does not change U.S. pol­icy on any “fi­nal sta­tus is­sues” such as the res­o­lu­tion of con­tested bor­ders.

“Those ques­tions are up to the par­ties involved,” Trump said.

In Israel, of­fi­cials il­lu­mi­nated the an­cient walls of Jerusalem’s Old City with Is­raeli and Amer­i­can flags, and Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu called it “a his­toric day.” He said his na­tion is What you need to know: The Post’s Ishaan Tharoor ex­plains the sig­nif­i­cance of rec­og­niz­ing Jerusalem as Israel’s cap­i­tal and what it means for the prospect of peace in the Mid­dle East, at wapo.st/JERUSALEM1207. “pro­foundly grate­ful to the pres­i­dent for his coura­geous and just de­ci­sion.”

In an act of protest, Pales­tini­ans turned off the Christmas lights on a tree out­side Beth­le­hem’s Church of the Na­tiv­ity and on an­other tree in Ra­mal­lah.

Trump cam­paigned on a prom­ise to re­lo­cate the em­bassy to Jerusalem, a move pop­u­lar among evan­gel­i­cal lead­ers who of­fered him cru­cial sup­port. A slew of them, in­clud­ing for­mer Arkansas gov­er­nor Mike Huck­abee and Robert Jef­fress, se­nior pas­tor at the First Bap­tist megachurch in Dal­las, re­leased state­ments of praise on Wed­nes­day.

Trump also drew sup­port on Capi­tol Hill from Repub­li­cans and some Democrats.

In a state­ment, Sen. Marco Ru­bio (R-Fla.) called the an­nounce­ment “an im­por­tant step in the right di­rec­tion” and added that “un­equiv­o­cal recog­ni­tion of Jerusalem as Israel’s cap­i­tal will be com­plete when the U.S. em­bassy is of­fi­cially re­lo­cated there.”

Rep. Eliot L. En­gel (N.Y.), the top Demo­crat on the House For­eign Af­fairs Com­mit­tee, said the de­ci­sion “helps cor­rect a decadesindig­nity.”

But House Mi­nor­ity Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) called Trump’s move pre­ma­ture and warned of “mass protests” as other Democrats also crit­i­cized the an­nounce­ment.

“Pres­i­dent Trump’s de­ci­sion to for­mally rec­og­nize Jerusalem as Israel’s cap­i­tal to­day ap­pears to be driven more by his de­sire to ful­fill a cam­paign pledge than to gen­er­ate progress to­wards di­rect peace talks,” said Sen. Christopher A. Coons (D-Del.), a mem­ber of the Sen­ate For­eign Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee.

“We can­not solve our prob­lems by mak­ing the same failed as­sump­tions and re­peat­ing the same failed strate­gies of the past.” Pres­i­dent Trump

Late last month, the State De­part­ment sent a memo to em­bassies in the Mid­dle East warn­ing of po­ten­tial un­rest.

Robert Richer, a for­mer head of the CIA’s Mid­dle Eastern di­vi­sion dur­ing the 2000s, warned that the move will en­cour­age ex­trem­ists and other U.S. op­po­nents in the re­gion while driv­ing de­spair­ing young Pales­tini­ans into the streets.

“This uni­lat­eral de­ci­sion, with­out real con­sul­ta­tion with the involved coun­tries out­side of Israel, will take away the hope of a Pales­tinian state and will again re­in­force the no­tion that U.S. in­ter­ests in the re­gion rest solely with Israel,” said Richer, who con­sults reg­u­larly with Arab lead­ers in re­gion.

White House aides em­pha­sized that Trump’s de­ci­sion would make clear to Mid­dle East coun­tries that the pres­i­dent keeps his word, not­ing he is ful­fill­ing what he promised to do dur­ing the cam­paign. One ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cial, speak­ing on the con­di­tion of anonymity, ac­knowl­edged that the Pales­tini­ans would likely threaten to re­ject peace talks.

But this per­son said the White House rec­og­nized that peace deals of­ten are not lin­ear in how they are ne­go­ti­ated and that they are of­ten pre­sumed dead more than once be­fore they reach the fin­ish line.

“A pres­i­dent who keeps his word ac­tu­ally has the abil­ity to walk to other par­ties in the re­gion and say, ‘Hey, I kept my word to Israel, and I will keep my word to you,’ ” said Ron Der­mer, the Is­raeli am­bas­sador to Wash­ing­ton. “That is the most im­por­tant cur­rency one has in the Mid­dle East.”

MO­HAMMED SABER/EURO­PEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY/EFE/REX/SHUTTERSTOCK

Ha­mas leader Is­mail Haniyeh, at lower cen­ter with white beard, at­tends a protest in Gaza City against the U.S. de­ci­sion to rec­og­nize Jerusalem as the cap­i­tal of Israel. The mil­i­tant group pre­dicted the move would “open the doors of hell” on U.S. in­ter­ests in the re­gion.

Green Line ( un­der 1949 armistice ac­cord) Jerusalem mu­nic­i­pal bound­ary ( dis­puted) 1 MILE Ma’ale Adu­mim Jerusalem mu­nic­i­pal bound­ary ( dis­puted) THE WASH­ING­TON POST Pales­tinian towns ISRAEL West Jerusalem Is­raeli set­tle­ment inside the West Bank East Jerusalem U.S. Con­sulate General Land once ear­marked for U.S. Em­bassy The Con­sular Sec­tion ISRAEL Da­m­as­cus LEB. Ra­mal­lah SYRIA Med. Sea Golan Heights WEST WEST BANK Tel Aviv BANK Am­man Jerusalem GAZA JOR­DAN EGYPT 50 MILES Mount Sco­pus Old City WEST BANK Beth­le­hem Sources: B’Tse­lem, satel­lite im­agery via Planet

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