Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israeli capital sets off a domino effect of discord

The decision has already caused turmoil beyond clashes between Israeli security and Palestinian protesters in the West Bank.

A Palestinian protester burns tires during clashes with Israeli troops following protests against President Donald Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017. CREDIT: Nasser Nasser/AP Photo.
A Palestinian protester burns tires during clashes with Israeli troops following protests against President Donald Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017. CREDIT: Nasser Nasser/AP Photo.

President Donald Trump’s Wednesday announcement that the United States now recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel has unleashed a flood of responses that can have long-lasting consequences in the region and beyond.

In addition to unilaterally deciding that the city — disputed territory that has been the subject of negotiation between Israelis and Palestinians for decades — belongs to Israel, Trump announced plans to move the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Although Trump claimed in the announcement that his decision was merely a recognition of reality and that he was not in fact siding with Israel and hoped that both sides could get a “great deal”, few see his announcement as a neutral statement. Several governments issued warnings in advance of the announcement, calling on Trump to rethink the decision, calling it “dangerous” and “provocative.”

Trump’s decision also flies in the face of decades of U.N. resolutions stating that Jerusalem is illegally occupied by Israel.

But it looks like things might get worse, as the decision carries critical security implications, not just for the Middle East, but for U.S. troops and embassies there, as well. Less than 24 hours after Trump’s announcement:

  • Hamas has called for a third intifada — or uprising — against Israel, with protests already under way and more planned in the following days.
  • Al-Qaeda-affiliated militant group al Shabab has issued a call to arms in response to U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, urging “all Muslims to raise arms and defend the blessed al-Aqsa from the Zionist occupiers supported by America, because what was taken by force can only be restored by force,” said spokesman Sheikh Ali Mohamud.
  • Lebanon’s Hezbollah — which has fought wars pushing Israel out of the country’s south — called Trump’s decision a “treacherous and malicious aggression,” with the group’s parliamentary spokesman Hassan Fadlallah, saying the only way out is via armed “resistance.”
  • Protests have broken out in several cities across Jordan, including the capital of Amman. Jordan has also called an emergency meeting of the Arab League and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation this weekend to cope with the consequences of Trump’s decision.
  • Iraq, a key U.S. ally in the Middle East, has urged Trump to reverse his decision, with the leader of a major Shia militia group, the Harakt Hezbollah al-Nujaba, saying that, “Trump’s stupid decision to make Jerusalem a capital for the Zionist will be the big spark for removing this entity from the body of the Islamic nation, and a legitimate reason to target American forces.” There have also been protests against the decision in the capital of Baghdad.
  • Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan responded to the announcement by accusing Trump of throwing the region “into a ring of fire,” while his government spokesman said Trump had set “a fire with no end in sight.”
  • United Arab Emirates called the move a “complete defiance of the historic and permanent rights of the Palestinian people.” It also urged Arabs and Muslims to unite against the U.S. position on Jerusalem.
  • Pakistan’s Jamaat-e-Islami has also called for country-wide protests against the United States — already, American and Israeli flags have been burned at rallies there.

The United States’ Western allies, including France, Germany, and the United Kingdom, have also criticized the move. Federica Mogherini, the European Union’s foreign policy head, said she believes the way forward is to maintain the status quo on Jerusalem’s status: “The European Union has a clear and united position. We believe the only realistic solution to the conflict between Israel and Palestine is based on two states and with Jerusalem as the capital of both.”

Key U.N. Security Council members China and Russia have also expressed concern over move. The council will meet on Friday to discuss Trump’s decision.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres voiced his worry, telling reporters on Wednesday that he has “consistently spoken out against any unilateral measures that would jeopardize the prospect of peace for Israelis and Palestinians,” adding, “In this moment of great anxiety, I want to make it clear: There is no alternative to the two-state solution. There is no Plan B.”