By Israel Hayom—
While Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided not to comment on the expected American announcement Wednesday declaring Jerusalem Israel’s capital, he posted a video hinting at the upcoming event, saying that on this day, Israel’s national identity is “being recognized.”
U.S. President Donald Trump was expected to officially announce Wednesday that the United States recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and that it is making preparations to move its embassy there, breaking with longtime U.S. policy and potentially stirring unrest.
In an impromptu video featuring the prime minister riding in his car to the Knesset, Netanyahu remarked that “our historical, national identity is being recognized in important ways every day, but particularly on this day. I will obviously have something to add to this later today on something having to do with Jerusalem.”
But many other governments in the Middle East and around the world were not as pleased. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei proclaimed Wednesday, hours before the expected American announcement, that the move was a sign of “incompetence and failure.”
“That they claim they want to announce Quds [Jerusalem] as the capital of occupied Palestine is because of their incompetence and failure,” Khamenei said, using the Arabic name for Jerusalem, according to his official website.
Iran has long supported a number of Palestinian militant groups in their fight against Israel.
“On the issue of Palestine, [U.S.] hands are tied and they cannot advance their goals,” Khamenei said, declaring that the Palestinian people would be victorious.
“American government officials have said themselves that we have to start a war in the region to protect the security of the Zionist regime [Israel],” Khamenei said.
There are certain rulers in the region who are “dancing to America’s tune,” he added in an indirect reference to Iran’s main regional rival Saudi Arabia.
“Whatever America wants, they’ll work against Islam to accomplish it,” he said
The endorsement of Israel’s claim to all of Jerusalem as its capital would reverse long-standing U.S. policy that the city’s status must be decided in negotiations with the Palestinians, who envision east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.
The Kremlin said on Wednesday that Russia was also concerned that the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians could be aggravated further by Trump’s plans to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.
“We will not discuss the decisions which have not been taken yet,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told a conference call with reporters.
China also expressed concern Wednesday, saying the declaration could spark new hostility.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters at a prescheduled news briefing that the status of Jerusalem was a complicated and sensitive issue and China was concerned the U.S. decision “could sharpen regional conflict.”
“All parties should do more for the peace and tranquility of the region, behave cautiously, and avoid impacting the foundation for resolving the long-standing Palestine issue and initiating new hostility in the region,” Geng said.
China has long maintained that Palestinians must be allowed to build an independent state, although it has traditionally played little role in Middle East conflicts or diplomacy, despite its reliance on the region for oil.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Wednesday that it would be a “grave mistake” for the U.S. to move its embassy and that he had warned U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson that the move would have dire implications.
Before a bilateral meeting with Tillerson at NATO headquarters, Cavusoglu said: “It would be a grave mistake. It will not bring any stability … but rather chaos and instability.”
“The whole world is against this,” he said, adding that he had already told Tillerson how he felt and would reiterate it at the meeting at NATO during the alliance’s foreign ministers’ meeting.
Concerned that violent clashes could erupt in the wake of the Trump announcement, Germany’s Foreign Ministry posted a warning on its website that demonstrations were expected and that its nationals should avoid them and any large crowds in east Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza.
In an update of its travel advisory for Israel and the Palestinian territories, the ministry in Berlin said: “From Dec. 6, 2017, there may be demonstrations in Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Violent clashes cannot be ruled out.”
The ministry advised travelers in Jerusalem to closely monitor the situation via local media and avoid the affected areas.
British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson also voiced concern Wednesday about Trump’s imminent announcement, telling reporters in Brussels: “Let’s wait and see what the president says exactly. But, you know, we view the reports that we have heard with concern because we think that Jerusalem obviously should be part of the final settlement between the Israelis and the Palestinians.”
The Syrian government also condemned Trump’s decision, the government-controlled Syrian Arab News Agency said. “[The move] is the culmination of the crime of usurping Palestine and displacing the Palestinian people,” SANA said, quoting a Foreign Ministry source.
Meanwhile, speaking to Palestinians ahead of Trump’s scheduled speech, Pope Francis said Wednesday that “recognizing the rights of all people” in the Holy Land was a primary condition for dialogue.
The pope, who spoke to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas about the crisis on Tuesday, made his comments to a group of visiting Palestinians involved in interreligious dialogue with the Vatican.
“The Holy Land is for us Christians the land par excellence of dialogue between God and mankind,” he said.
He spoke of dialogue between religions “and also in civil society.”
“The primary condition of that dialogue is reciprocal respect and a commitment to strengthening that respect, for the sake of recognizing the rights of all people, wherever they happen to be,” he said.