The French and Israeli leaders sparred verbally over the US decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
By: AP and World Israel News Staff
The French and Israeli leaders wrangled Sunday over President Donald Trump’s official recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, while new violence rippled across the region following the move.
In Jerusalem, a Palestinian stabbed an Israeli security guard, seriously wounding him in the first attack in the volatile city since Trump’s pronouncement Wednesday. In Beirut, scores of Lebanese and Palestinian demonstrators clashed with security forces outside the heavily guarded US Embassy, and Arab foreign ministers meeting in Cairo demanded that the United States rescind the decision.
At a meeting in Paris with Israel’s visiting prime minister, French President Emmanuel Macron condemned the violence against Israelis while expressing “disapproval” of Trump’s decision, calling it “dangerous for peace.”
“It doesn’t seem to serve, in the short term, the cause of Israel’s security and the Israelis themselves,” Macron said.
He urged Israel to freeze its construction of homes in Judea and Samaria and called for other confidence-building measures toward the Palestinians.
Jewish connection to Jerusalem goes back 3,000 years
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has called Trump’s decision “historic,” said Israel has maintained its capital in the city for 70 years and the Jewish connection to Jerusalem goes back 3,000 years.
“Paris is the capital of France, Jerusalem is the capital of Israel,” he said. “We respect your history and your choices. And we know that as friends, you respect ours.”
“I think the sooner the Palestinians come to grips with this reality, the sooner we move toward peace,” he added.
The exchange between the two allies set the stage for what could be a tense meeting Monday for Netanyahu with European Union foreign ministers in Brussels. The Jerusalem issue and the moribund peace process are expected to be high on the agenda.
Last week, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini warned that Trump’s decision “has the potential to send us backward to even darker times than the one we are already living in.”
She also warned that Trump’s “move could diminish the potential role that the United States could play in the region and create more confusion around this.”
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has said Trump’s decision has in effect disqualified the US from continuing in its role as the traditional mediator of peace talks. The Palestinians have spent recent days trying to rally Arab and broader international opposition to the decision.
After Abbas political adviser Majdi Khaldi said Saturday that the Palestinian leader refuses to meet with Vice President Mike Pence when he visits the region this month, a spokeswoman for Pence said Sunday it was “unfortunate that the Palestinian Authority is walking away again from an opportunity to discuss the future of the region.”
EU leaders, including Macron, have reiterated support for establishing an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel.
“We want an agreement that is a great deal for the Israelis and a great deal for the Palestinians,” Trump said when announcing his recognition of the Israeli capital. “The United States would support a two state solution if agreed to by both sides.”
Trump’s decision a ‘recognition of simple reality’
Israel captured eastern Jerusalem from Jordan in the 1967 Six Day War. Jordan had joined the other surrounding Arab nations in an attack on Israel, aimed at annihilating the Jewish State.
Acting Assistant Secretary of State David Satterfield told Arab journalists that Trump’s pronouncement was merely a “recognition of simple reality” that Israel’s government already is in Jerusalem.
He said the US was not prejudging final-status negotiations about the city’s final borders and expressed hope that world leaders understand that Washington is committed to moving forward with a peace plan he expects to be unveiled in the new year.
“This is a question of choice: Do leaders choose to speak to their peoples, to their regions in terms that reflect reality or in terms that incite or inflame?” he said. “We hope it’s the former.”
In a resolution long on rhetoric but short on concrete actions, Arab foreign ministers demanded the recognition decision be rescinded and urged the UN Security Council to adopt a resolution condemning Trump’s decision. They acknowledged that Washington would most likely veto it.
Arab world preoccupied with Iran
With the Arab world preoccupied by other crises, Arab willingness to press the issue may be limited. In Paris, Netanyahu talked about his improving relations with Arab countries that look to Israel as an ally against Iran.
“There is in this a blessing, because this could help pave the way to an ultimate peace between us and our Palestinian neighbors and between us and the rest of the Arab world,” he said.
Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the U.N., defended Trump’s move. “For those who want to say this is a bad idea, I’ll tell you: Ask us five or 10 years from now if you still think it’s a bad idea. Because I really do think this is going to move the ball in the peace process,” she told CNN’s “State of the Union.”