Jerusalem issue: Erdogan threatens to cut ties with Israel

ANKARA, Dec 6 – Numerous world leaders tried on Tuesday to convince US President Donald Trump not to take any steps that would change the status of Jerusalem, with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warning that Ankara would cut ties with Israel if the US recognized Jerusalem as its capital.

In a move widely perceived in Jerusalem as an effort by Erdogan to be seen as a leader in the Muslim world, he said at a meeting of his AKP Party that Jerusalem was a “redline” for Muslims.

“This could go as far as cutting our diplomatic relations with Israel. You cannot take such a step,” he was quoted by the Hurriyet newspaper as saying, adding that this would not only be a violation of international law, “but also a big blow to the conscience of humanity.”

According to the report, Erdogan added: “Has the US completed everything and only this is left?”

Israel, accustomed to verbal attacks by the Turkish president, dismissed his threats, with diplomatic officials responding that “Jerusalem has been the capital of the Jewish people for 3,000 years, and of Israel for the last 70 – whether Erdogan recognizes that or not.”

Education Minister Naftali Bennett noted that Erdogan “does not miss an opportunity” to attack Israel. But, he added, “Israel must advance its goals, including the recognition of united Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel. There will always be those who criticize, but at the end of the day it is better to have a united Jerusalem than Erdogan’s sympathy.”

Transportation and Intelligence Minister Israel Katz said that Israel “does not take directives or threats from Turkey.” Israel is a “sovereign state and Jerusalem is its capital,” Katz said. “There is nothing more historically just or right than to recognize Jerusalem – which has been the capital of the Jewish people for 3,000 years – as the capital of the State of Israel. The days of the sultan and the Ottoman Empire are over.”

Israel and Turkey resumed full diplomatic relations last year, after a six-year falling out following the MV Mavi Marmara incident, in which nine Turks were killed when IDF commandos boarded a ship that was trying to break the naval blockade of the Gaza Strip.

Though his tone was the most strident, Erdogan was not the only world leader to urge Trump to reconsider his plans for Jerusalem.

European leaders from Brussels, Paris and Berlin, as well as partners critical to the president’s burgeoning peace effort in Riyadh and across the Gulf, warned Trump and his cabinet officials that such a move would be “counterproductive” to the pursuit of peace and “negatively impact” any future diplomatic initiative they might have in store.

Their warnings came amid an acknowledgment by the State Department that Trump’s possible moves – recognizing Jerusalem as the Israeli capital, moving the US Embassy there from Tel Aviv, or both – could well lead to violence in the region and at American diplomatic facilities worldwide.

Politico, a Washington-based news outlet, reported that two classified diplomatic cables had been sent to embassies in recent weeks urging preparedness ahead of a potential announcement.

While several US media outlets reported that Trump plans on announcing US recognition of Jerusalem in a Wednesday speech, others have claimed the decision has been deferred until at least next week. The White House has not confirmed that such a speech will be made.

Describing Trump’s call with French President Emmanuel Macron, the White House said the two leaders “discussed the path to peace in the Middle East.” The Élysée Palace was more descriptive. 

“The French president expressed his concern with the possibility that the United States might unilaterally recognize Jerusalem as capital of the State of Israel,” a statement from Paris said. “Mr. Macron reaffirmed that the status of Jerusalem must be resolved through peace negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.”

The French government also said that Macron and Trump agreed to “revisit this issue again soon,” suggesting that Macron understood Trump as undecided on the matter. Indeed, Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, tasked with leading the administration’s peace initiative, said on Sunday that Trump was “still looking at a lot of different facts” and report of a final decision having been made were premature.

Germany’s Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel echoed Macron, calling for the matter to be determined in direct negotiations. So too did European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini, who told reporters that the issue topped the agenda of her meeting with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

“We believe that any action that would undermine these efforts must absolutely be avoided,” Mogherini said. “A way must be found through negotiations to resolve the status of Jerusalem as the future capital of both states so that the aspiration of both parties can be fulfilled.”

“We will discuss this further with Prime Minister Netanyahu next Monday here in Brussels,” she added.


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