Labor’s Gabbay welcomes Trump’s Jerusalem move, urges ‘trust-building’ measures

Politicians across the spectrum praise expected US recognition of Israel’s capital; Arab MKs blast it

Labor party chief Avi Gabbay leads a faction meeting at the Knesset on November 20, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90 via JTA)
Labor party chief Avi Gabbay leads a faction meeting at the Knesset on November 20, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90 via JTA)

Jewish Israeli politicians from across the political spectrum welcomed US President Donald Trump’s expected announcement Wednesday that he is formally recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, while Arab opposition lawmakers denounced the move as anti-Palestinian and antithetical to peace.

Labor party leader Avi Gabbay praised Trump’s expected announcement, adding that he hoped it would be accompanied by trust-building measures that will “resuscitate” prospects for peace.

“We have to announce an end to settlement-building outside the [major settlement] blocs, to transfer Palestinian villages and neighborhoods in [Israeli-controlled areas of] the West Bank to civil Palestinian control. There is no realistic solution other than two states for two peoples,” Gabbay told Israel Radio in an interview Wednesday morning.

Gabbay went on to assert that Jerusalem would remain undivided under Israeli sovereignty in any future peace agreement.

Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel of the Jewish Home party hailed the move as “a new day, a new reality we have waited for these 70 years.”

He criticized Palestinian threats of “days of rage,” saying, “Our neighbors prove once again that they don’t miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.”

Former Likud minister Gideon Sa’ar called the announcement a “significant thing” and said “[Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu deserves the credit. I believe his good relationship with the White House contributed to this move.”

Israel’s Likud party leader Benjamin Netanyahu speaks with Gideon Sa’ar at the party meeting in the Knesset in Jerusalem March 2, 2009. (Miriam Alster / FLASH90.)

In a radio interview, Sa’ar rejected concerns that the move amounted to Israel receiving a diplomatic prize without giving any peace overtures in return. “We don’t have to pay the Palestinians anything for recognition of our capital. We’re asking for the most natural thing. No other nation has a stronger historic link to its capital that ours.”

Arab Joint List lawmakers slammed the announcement. The firebrand MK Hanin Zoabi insisted that “the United States doesn’t decide anything for the Palestinian people, and Trump doesn’t represent the American establishment in this. Jerusalem is the capital of the Palestinian state, and we will continue to fight for this.”

She added, “the US declared itself irrelevant as a peace mediator. It declared itself part of the occupying power, and even ignored out of hand the diplomatic tradition of the American government itself.”

Zoabi called for cutting all Palestinian contacts with the Trump administration, and “to stop the security coordination and all security ties with Israel on the part of the Palestinian Authority. We must invest all our efforts in unifying the Palestinian people in true unity, political and strategic, between Fatah and Hamas, so that they may lead a national struggle. Redemption won’t come to the Palestinian people from outside. Redemption for this heroic nation will come only from its own efforts.”

Zoabi’s comments followed remarks a day earlier by fellow Joint List lawmakers Ayman Odeh and Ahmad Tibi.

Joint (Arab) List MK Hanin Zoabi attends a committee meeting at the Knesset, November 2, 2015. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

“Trump is a pyromaniac, and will set the entire region ablaze with his madness,” Odeh, who heads the faction, said in a statement Tuesday. “If one thing has been made clear in recent days, it’s that the US should not remain the broker of talks between Israel and the Palestinians.”

“If the Israeli government wants the world to recognize West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, all it has to do is recognize East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine,” he added.

Tibi said moving the US embassy would violate international law and “seriously damage” the prospects for a two-state solution.

“This is an unreasonable move that is in violation of international law,” he said. “It’s ridiculous that President Trump’s campaign promise is turned into ‘diplomatic terrorism,’ which will seriously damage the vision for two states.”

“The US administration proved this time that they are part of the problem and not part of the solution,” he said.

The recognition of Jerusalem, widely expected to anger the Arab world and cast a shadow over US-led peace efforts, will also be accompanied by Trump committing to support a two-state solution should both Israel and the Palestinians back it, White House officials said on Tuesday in a likely bid by the administration to balance the announcement seen as heavily favoring Israel.

In a Tuesday briefing with reporters, White House officials repeatedly referred to the recognition and embassy move, which will likely take years, as “acknowledging a reality,” noting the city’s role as the seat of Israel’s government but disregarding Palestinian claims there.

White House senior advisor Jared Kushner (L) watches as US President Donald Trump visits the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City on May 22, 2017. (AFP Photo/Mandel Ngan)

“He views this as a recognition of reality, both historic reality and modern reality,” one official said.

“While President Trump recognizes that the status of Jerusalem is a highly sensitive issue, he does not think it will be resolved by ignoring the truth that Jerusalem is home to Israel’s legislature, its Supreme Court, the Prime Minister’s Residence, and as such, it is the capital of Israel,” one of the officials said.

Trump will stress that the “boundaries” of Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem require negotiation in the context of a peace accord, the US officials said, and they added that his moves do not constitute a change to the status quo at the Temple Mount.

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