President Donald Trump on Wednesday recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, ignoring warnings from world leaders and upending decades of US policy.
“I have determined that it is time to officially recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel,” Trump said from the White House.
“It’s the right thing to do,” he added.
The declaration marks a departure from seven decades of deliberate diplomatic ambiguity about the final status of a holy city vociferously claimed by both Israelis and Palestinians, according to news agency AFP.
Trump also kicked off the process of moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, making good on a campaign promise dear to evangelical Christian and right wing Jewish voters – as well as donors.
Trump’s predecessors – from Bill Clinton to George Bush – made similar promises on the campaign trail, but quickly reneged upon taking office, and the burden of war and peace.
Trump administration officials earlier described the risky move as a “recognition of reality” that the city has been used as a base for many Israeli government offices.
“My announcement today marks the beginning of a new approach to the conflict between Isreal and Palestinians,” he said.
Jordan and Palestinians called for an emergency meeting of the Arab League on Wednesday prior to Trump’s announcement. Members are set to meet in Cairo on Saturday, reports quoting diplomatic sources said.
Shortly after Trump’s speech, Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, said the US president “destroyed any possibility of peace” and was “pushing this region towards chaos [and] violence”.
“He’s destroying all moderates in the region and he’s giving power to extremists,” Erekat told Al Jazeera from Jericho.
“This is the most dangerous decision that any US president has ever taken,” he said, adding that Trump had “disqualified his country from any possible role in the peace process”.
“How can he talk about peace when he dictates the future of Jerusalem before negotiations begin, in total violation of international law?” asked Erekat, saying it is “meaningless” to have a Palestinian state without Jerusalem as its capital.
The only option remaining for Palestinians, he said, “is to fight for equal rights” between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, the area of historic Palestine.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday called for a summit of the main pan-Islamic body in Istanbul on December 13 to discuss the move.
Erdogan’s call came after the Turkish government said the move risked igniting a “fire” in the Middle East and will prove a “great disaster.”
The recognition will “throw the region and the world into a fire and it’s not known when it will end,” Deputy Prime Minister and government spokesman Bekir Bozdag wrote on Twitter, saying the move was a “great disaster” that would lead the way to “turmoil, chaos and clashes.”
On the the eve of his contentious decision on Jerusalem’s status, the president held calls with US allies in the Middle East to discuss the issue.
The White House said Trump talked with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi late on Tuesday, both of whom have warned Trump against moving the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.
Sisi urged Trump “not to complicate the situation in the region by taking measures that jeopardise the chances of peace in the Middle East,” the Egyptian leader’s spokesman Bassem Radi said in a statement.
Sisi also confirmed “Egypt’s consistent position on maintaining the legal status of Jerusalem within the framework of international standards and relevant United Nations resolutions,” he said.
Saudi Arabia’s King Salman warned President Donald Trump that moving the US embassy for Israel to Jerusalem was a “dangerous step” that could rile Muslims worldwide.
“Moving the US embassy is a dangerous step that provokes the feelings of Muslims around the world,” state-run Al-Ekhbariya TV quoted King Salman as telling Trump in the phone call.
In an open letter to the American president on Tuesday, Morocco’s King Mohammed VI also expressed his “deep personal concern” and “the great concern felt by Arab and Muslim states and peoples” over moves to recognise the city as Israel’s capital and transfer the US embassy there.
The monarch was writing as head of the 57-member Organisation of Islamic Cooperation’s Al-Quds Committee, which lobbies on issues related to the city, holy to three of the world’s major religions.
Earlier on Tuesday Trump informed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas by phone of his intention to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Abbas “warned of the dangerous consequences such a decision would have to the peace process and to the peace, security and stability of the region and of the world,” a PA spokesperson said.
The move has been widely condemned in the Arab world and internationally.
A Jordanian palace statement quoted King Abdullah as telling the US president that such a decision would have “dangerous repercussions on the stability and security in the region” and would obstruct US efforts to resume Arab-Israeli peace talks.
Israel regards Jerusalem as its capital, a position nearly the entire world rejects saying its status should be determined in peace talks with the Palestinians.
East Jerusalem, which includes the Old City, is considered occupied Palestinian territory under international law.