High drama ahead of Trump’s Jerusalem speech

The diplomatic deluge has begun with warnings from around the world and threats of violence ahead of Trump’s Jerusalem announcement. 

By: Steve Leibowitz, World Israel News

A White House official put it this way: “On December 6, 2017, President Trump will recognize that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel.”

That’s 1 PM in Washington and 8 pm in Israel.  President Trump made several calls to inform key world leaders, including Arab and Palestinian leaders, in advance of the coming change in US policy, but those calls did not prevent a deluge of dire warnings and threats from around the world.

A White House official acknowledged, “While President Trump recognizes that the status of Jerusalem is a highly sensitive issue, he does not think it will be resolved by ignoring the simple truth that Jerusalem is home to Israel’s legislature, its Supreme Court, the Prime Minister’s residence, and as such, it is the capital of Israel.”  According to the White House, President Trump’s comments will reflect his view, which is: “Stating that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital city is a recognition of reality, both historic reality and modern reality.”

The officials do not expect the president to use phrases such as “undivided capital,” which could be taken to imply Israeli sovereignty over eastern Jerusalem.

According to reports out of Washington, Trump does not intend to announce the relocation of the US embassy immediately, but rather plans to announce his intention to make the move when Ambassador David Friedman indicates that the facilities in the Israeli capital are ready.  That could put off the move by as much as a few years, they say.

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‘US is finally speaking with moral clarity’

Dan Diker from the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs told WIN that Trump’s speech will serve as a wakeup call for the Palestinians. “Trump is telling the Palestinian Authority that enough is enough.  You keep inciting the streets to violence, pay salaries to terrorists, push the international criminal court to prosecute Israelis, support BDS and fail to approach new peace talks seriously,” he said.

According to Diker, “The US is finally speaking with moral clarity. If there is no partner for a peace process, there is no reason to hold off on an announcement about Jerusalem.”

In a joint statement, the Palestinian factions (including Fatah and Hamas) declared three “days of rage” from Wednesday until Friday. They described Trump’s policy as “political blackmail that would destroy his ability to make regional achievements.”

Israeli lawmakers from the United Arab List dubbed US President Donald Trump a “pyromaniac” and accused him of “diplomatic terrorism.”

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman warned US President Donald Trump that “such a dangerous step is likely to inflame the passions of Muslims around the world due to the great status of Jerusalem and the Al-Aqsa Mosque.”

Iranian leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei tweeted that the US president’s expected announcement is “an expression of despair,” vowing that “Palestine will be free, the Palestinian nation will achieve victory.”

In a raucous televised speech, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said, “Mr. Trump! Jerusalem is a red line for Muslims.” He went on to call for an emergency summit of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and vowed to “set the entire Islamic world in motion.” Erdogan is also threatening to break off diplomatic relations with Israel.

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The EU’s foreign policy chief ,Federica Mogherini, warned that Trump’s announcement is likely to have serious repercussions on public opinion in large parts of the world. According to Mogherini, “The focus should remain on the efforts to restart the peace process while avoiding any action that would undermine such efforts.”

Close watch on developments in Jerusalem

Defense officials are reportedly bracing for violent protests and terror attacks in the hours and days following Trump’s speech. The Israel Police, the Shin Bet security service and the IDF’s Central Command have held discussions in recent days to review possible scenarios that could result from the Trump announcement. But there are no specific indications of impending violence, they say. Police Superintendent Micky Rosenfeld told WIN, “We have not mobilized additional forces and there has been no change in deployment. We will respond according to developments.”

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat views Trump’s speech as a reason for celebration and planned for a rally outside city hall on Safra Square Wednesday night, where the Israeli public can watch the Trump speech live on a giant screen.

A former top Jerusalem security chief who chose not to be identified told WIN, “It is likely that there will be some disturbances. I do not expect major, sustained violence in the city and it will pass.” The former official denounced Mayor Barkat’s decision to hold a rally, saying, “It’s irresponsible. We should not be partying. I hope it passes peacefully.”

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In anticipation of an outbreak of Palestinian violence, the US State Department on Tuesday ordered employees and instructed all US citizens to avoid Jerusalem’s Old City and the West Bank until further notice.  The US Embassy in Tel Aviv posted a notice, saying, “With widespread calls for demonstrations beginning December 6 in Jerusalem and the West Bank, U.S. government employees and their family members are not permitted until further notice to conduct personal travel in Jerusalem’s Old City and in the West Bank… United States citizens should avoid areas where crowds have gathered and where there is increased police and/or military presence.”

Not moving embassy ‘an effort to mollify the Arabs’

Barkat called on the US to rescind the restrictions. The mayor also told Army Radio that Jerusalem is preparing for celebrations and that Israeli security forces are well prepared to contend with any threat.

Some Trump supporters remain disappointed that the embassy move will not come sooner. Republicans in Israel leader Marc Zell told WIN, “He may push off the embassy move for years when they could simply change the sign on the Jerusalem Consulate in a matter of minutes. I don’t discount the importance of this break with 70 years of mistaken US policy, but not moving the embassy at this time is just another effort to mollify the Arabs. Let’s not forget that the US is the leader of the free world.”

Zell predicted that there will be some Palestinian violence here as well as violence in the Arab World, but “we will survive it and so will the US.”