‘It’s catastrophic:’ Europe allies reject Trump’s expected Jerusalem pronouncement
By RICK NOACK | The Washington Post | Published: December 6, 2017
BERLIN — Despite strong criticism from the Middle East and carefully worded rebukes from U.S. allies, President Donald Trump is expected to formally recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel on Wednesday and to announce moving the U.S. Embassy there in a decision that would upend decades of U.S. policy.
Several countries, among them many U.S. allies in Europe, are warning that the move could further disrupt relations between Palestinians and Israelis and spark unrest in the region.
Close allies such as Britain, France and Germany all criticized Trump or voiced skepticism ahead of his scheduled pronouncement. German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel used the example to emphasize Tuesday why traditional U.S.-European ties have started to "crumble."
"We all know the far-reaching impact this move would have," Gabriel said. "Germany's position on this issue remains unchanged: A solution to the Jerusalem problem can only be found through direct negotiations between both parties. Everything which worsens the crisis is counterproductive."
The German foreign minister's words were echoed Tuesday by French President Emmanuel Macron, who "reaffirmed that the status of Jerusalem must be resolved through peace negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians," according to a statement released by the French Embassy in Washington.
British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson similarly indicated that the Wednesday announcement could further disrupt efforts to reach peace in the region. "Clearly this is a decision that makes it more important than ever that the long-awaited American proposals on the Middle East peace process are now brought forward, and I would say that that should happen as a matter of priority," Johnson said Wednesday morning as he stood next to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson at NATO headquarters in Brussels.
Perhaps the strongest warning came out of Sweden, where Foreign Minister Margot Wallström warned that the changes are "obviously going to lead to massive effects and unease."
"It's catastrophic," Wallström said.
The expected announcement dominated European news coverage Wednesday, especially in countries such as Germany, France and Britain where anti-Semitic incidents have been on the rise in recent years — partially due to an escalation of tensions between Israel and Palestinians. European nations have hosted multiple interfaith events to discuss ways to de-escalate, and Pope Francis was among the leaders speaking out in favor of preserving the status quo of Jerusalem, which is considered to be a holy city by Jews, Christians and Muslims.
"The Holy Land is for us Christians the land par excellence of dialogue between God and mankind," the pope said. "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." The pope also spoke to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday.
Abbas also reached out to the presidents of Russia and France, as well as King Abdullah of Jordan on Tuesday, urging them to stop the Trump administration's formal recognition.
In Russia, the Kremlin joined the list of nations fearing that Trump's expected announcement would exacerbate tensions between Israel and Palestinians, saying that the situation could worsen as a result.
It was one of the few times the Kremlin shared a common foreign policy goal with most member states of NATO, whose foreign ministers convened in Brussels for meetings on Tuesday and Wednesday. In a tweet posted following a Wednesday morning meeting with Tillerson, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu called the possibility of Trump formally recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital a "grave mistake."
"At our bilateral meeting with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, we once again reminded that moving the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem ... would bring chaos instead of stability to the region," Cavusoglu wrote.