UNITED NATIONS — The international community reacted swiftly to President Donald Trump’s announcement the United States would formally recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, a move that could reignite Israeli-Palestinian violence.
U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres led the chorus of global voices Wednesday urging calm and restraint.
“From day one as secretary-general of the United Nations, I have consistently spoken out against any unilateral measures that would jeopardize the prospect of peace for Israelis and Palestinians,” he told reporters. “Jerusalem is a final status issue that must be resolved through direct negotiations between the two parties on the basis of the relevant Security Council and General Assembly resolutions, taking into account the legitimate concerns of both the Palestinian and the Israeli sides.
“I understand the deep attachment that Jerusalem holds in the hearts of so many people, it has been so for centuries and it will always be,” Guterres added.
“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,” the U.N. chief said.
Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas said Trump’s announcement on Jerusalem “is a declaration of withdrawal from the role it has played in the peace process.”
Palestinian top negotiator Saeb Erekat said, “This step is prejudging, dictating, closing doors for negotiations and I think President Trump tonight disqualified the United States of America to play any role in any peace process. The Palestinian leadership will call for an emergency session for the Palestine Central Council to study this speech and to review all the options available and take the proper decision concerning many issues.”
Egypt — the first Arab nation to sign a peace treaty with Israel in 1979 — has denounced the U.S. president’s decision. A Foreign Ministry statement says Trump’s decision is a violation of international resolutions on the city’s status, and notes Egypt is worried about the fallout of the move on the stability of the region and about its “extremely negative” impact on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
French President Emmanuel Macron’s reaction was swift and critical. “It is a regrettable decision taken by the Americans vis-à-vis Jerusalem. France does not approve, it contradicts international law and it ignores U.N. Security Council resolutions,” he said.
Earlier, Bolivia’s U.N. ambassador said his delegation would request a public meeting of the Security Council should Trump go ahead with the expected announcement.
“It would be a reckless and a dangerous decision that goes against international law, the resolutions of the Security Council, also weakens any effort for peace in the region, and also upsets the whole region,” Ambassador Sacha Llorentty told reporters.
At his weekly audience at the Vatican on Wednesday, just hours ahead of Trump’s announcement, Pope Francis said he could not “remain silent” about his deep concern over Jerusalem.
He urged respect for the “status quo” of Jerusalem, a city he noted is sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims. He said he prays that “wisdom and prudence prevail, to avoid adding new elements of tension in a world already shaken and scarred by many cruel conflicts.”
Leaders and analysts have raised the alarm in recent days that such a move could be seen as a major provocation to the Palestinians and could trigger another intifada or uprising.
In 2000, five years of deadly violence was ignited when Israeli politician Ariel Sharon visited the Temple Mount at the Al Aqsa mosque complex. Both Jews and Muslims claim the site as among their most sacred.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed the announcement.
“We’re profoundly grateful for the president for his courageous and just decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and to prepare for the opening of the U.S. embassy here,” Netanyahu said.
Former U.N. secretary-general and leader of The Elders, Kofi Annan, said in a statement there would be no lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians unless both parties’ rights and claims are respected in the historic city.
“I deeply regret today’s decision by the U.S. president, reversing a long-held position and breaking with the international consensus on Jerusalem,” Annan said. “I hope Palestinians and regional Arab powers will react with restraint, and U.S. allies will do all they can to realign Washington’s policy with international norms. All parties must avoid stoking tensions, which could all too easily spill over into violence.”
“With this move, the United States is violating its own international legal obligations not to recognize or assist an illegal situation and to ensure respect for the Geneva Conventions,” said Raed Jarrar, Amnesty International USA’s Middle East Advocacy Director. “No country in the world recognizes Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem, making the decision to confer U.S. recognition deeply troubling.”
Jarrar said the decision would undermine international rule of law and shows “a total disregard for mass human rights violations that Palestinians are facing as a result of Israel’s annexation policies.”