Opposition building in the Middle East to any U.S. nod on Jerusalem
Vociferous Arab and Muslim opposition was building on Tuesday to any possible U.S. recognition of contested Jerusalem as Israel's capital, as European leaders expressed concern about harm to fragile Mideast peace efforts.
Turkey threatened to cut ties with Israel, the Palestinians warned they would halt contacts with their U.S. counterparts - and key Washington ally Saudi Arabia spoke out strongly against such a possible step.
Saudi Arabia, a regional powerhouse, is crucial to any White House plans to promote a possible Mideast peace deal. President Donald Trump says he hopes to broker the "ultimate deal," but has not divulged details.
French President Emmanuel Macron said he reminded Trump in a phone call on Monday night that the fate of Jerusalem should be determined in negotiations on setting up a Palestinian state alongside Israel. Macron said in a statement on Tuesday that he expressed concern about any possible unilateral U.S. moves and that he agreed with Trump "to speak again shortly on this subject."
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, who was meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in Brussels, said any actions that undermine Mideast peace efforts "must be absolutely avoided."
Jerusalem is home to the third holiest shrine of Islam, along with the holiest site in Judaism and major Christian holy sites. It forms the combustible centre of the Israeli-Arab conflict. Any perceived harm to Muslim claims to the city has triggered large-scale protests in the past, both in the Holy Land and across the region.
Jerusalem in 1967 and 2017
This week marks the fiftieth anniversary of the Six-Day War. In less than a week, Israel seized control of the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula from Egypt, the West Bank and East Jerusalem from Jordan, and the Golan Heights from Syria. Since then, throughout countless attempts to establish peace between the Israelis and Palestinians, the Occupied Territories have remained a bone of contention.
Mount of Olives then: if it weren't for the ancient Ottoman city wall and the shrine in the background, viewers might not realise this is the same site. The picture was taken on 7 June 1967, when the peak was this brigade's command post at the height of the Six-Day War, or Arab-Israeli War
Mount of Olives today: the old City Wall and the gold-domed Muslim shrine, the Dome of the Rock, are visible in the background from the mountain ridge which lies to the east of the Old City. The Old Jewish Cemetery, situated on the western and southern slopes of the ridge, are in an area once named for its many olive groves. It is the oldest continually used Jewish cemetery in the world
Al-Aqsa mosque then: the name Al-Aqsa translates to "the farthest mosque". It is also Jerusalem's biggest mosque. Israel has strict control over the area after conquering all of Jerusalem in the 1967 Six-Day War and regaining access to its religious sites. Leaders at the time agreed that the Temple Mount would be administered by an Islamic religious trust known as the Waqf
Al-Aqsa mosque today: Al-Aqsa, with its silver-coloured dome and vast hall, is located on Temple Mount. Muslims call the mosque the "Noble Sanctuary", but it is also the most sacred site in Judaism, a place where two biblical temples were believed to have stood. Moreover, it remains the third holiest site in Sunni Islam, after Mecca and Medina. There have long been tensions over control of the entire Temple Mount area
Damascus Gate then: the gate itself – what we see today was built by the Ottoman Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent in 1537 – has changed little over the past fifty years. Seven Gates allow entrance to the Old City and its separate quarters
Damascus Gate today: the historic Gate, named in English for the fact that the road from there heads north to Damascus, is a busy main entrance to Palestinian East Jerusalem and to a bustling Arab bazaar. Over the past two years, it has frequently been the site of security incidents and Palestinian attacks on Israelis
Old City then: this picture was taken in July 1967, but 50 years later, some things in the Old City haven't changed at all. Boys like the one in the photo balancing a tray of sesame pastries – called bagels – still roam the streets of the Old City today, hawking the sweet breads sprinkled with sesame seeds for about a euro apiece
Old City today: Jerusalem's vibrant Old City, a UNESCO world Heritage Site since 1981, is home to sites important to many different religions: the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa mosque for Muslims, Temple Mount and the Western Wall for Jews and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre for Christians. Busy and colourful, it is a great place for shopping and food and a top attraction for visitors
Western Wall then: the Western Wall is also known as the 'Wailing' Wall, a term considered derogatory and not used by Jews. The above photo of people flocking to the Wall to pray was taken on 1 September 1967, just weeks after Israel regained control of the site following the Six-Day-War. It had been expelled from the Old City 19 years earlier during Jordan's occupation
Western Wall today: this section of ancient limestone wall in Jerusalem's Old City is the western support wall of the Temple Mount. It is the most religious site for Jewish people, who come here to pray and perhaps to place a note in a crack in the wall. There is a separate section for men and for women, but it is free and open to everyone all year round – after the obligatory security check
The prospect of Trump recognising Jerusalem as Israel's capital has triggered mounting opposition in the Arab and Muslim world.
East Jerusalem, now home to more than 300,000 Palestinians, was captured by Israel in 1967 and then annexed to its capital, a move most of the international community has not recognised.
Palestinians seek east Jerusalem as a future capital. Israel's current government, unlike its predecessors, rejects the idea of partition of the city. Under international consensus and long-standing U.S. policy, the fate of the city is to be determined in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.
A Trump recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital would upend Washington's traditional approach to the conflict. It was not immediately clear what Trump could hope to gain from such a step, while downsides include alienating crucial Arab allies, from Saudi Arabia to Jordan.
On Tuesday, warnings against such a possible U.S. move were pouring in from across the region.
Ahmed Aboul-Gheit, the head of the Arab League, urged the United States to reconsider. A possible recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital would be a "dangerous measure that would have repercussions" across the region, he said during a Cairo meeting of Arab League representatives gathered to discuss the issue.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told parliament that U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital was a "red line" and that his country's response "could go as far as us cutting diplomatic ties with Israel."
Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett played down the threat, saying that "at the end of the day it is better to have a united Jerusalem than Erdogan's sympathy."
In the West Bank, the diplomatic adviser of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital could end Washington's role as mediator between Israelis and Palestinians.
"If the Americans recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, then this would mean they decided, on their own, to distance themselves from efforts to make peace and that they will have no credibility or role in this issue," Majdi Khaldi told journalists in perhaps the most sharply worded comments yet by a Palestinian official. "We will stop our contacts with them (in the event of recognition) because such a step goes against our existence and against the fate of our cause," Khaldi said. "It targets Muslims and Christians alike."
Palestinian political factions led by Abbas' Fatah movement called for daily protest marches this week, starting on Wednesday.
Saudi Arabia expressed its "grave and deep concern" about possible recognition.
In a statement on the state-run Saudi Press Agency, the Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday that the kingdom affirms the rights of Palestinian people regarding Jerusalem, which it said "cannot be changed." The statement warned that this step would "provoke sentiments of Muslims throughout world."
On Monday, the Organisation for Islamic Cooperation, which has 57 member states, said U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital would constitute "naked aggression" against the Muslim and Arab world. (AP)
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