Trump declares Israeli capital

Local Jewish community supports decision

AP Palestinians burn a poster of U.S. President Donald Trump during a protest in Bethlehem, West Bank, Wednesday. Defying dire, worldwide warnings, Trump Wednesday broke with decades of U.S. and international policy by recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump shattered decades of unwavering U.S. neutrality on Jerusalem Wednesday, declaring the sorely divided holy city as Israel’s capital and sparking frustrated Palestinians to cry out that he had destroyed already-fragile Mideast hopes for peace.

Defying dire, worldwide warnings, Trump insisted that after repeated peace failures it was past time for a new approach, starting with what he said was his decision merely based on reality to recognize Jerusalem as the seat of Israel’s government. He also said the United States would move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, though he set no timetable.

Bonnie Deutsch Burdman, Director of Community Relations and Government Affairs for the Youngstown Area Jewish Federation, said the Jewish community welcomes the announcement.

“The Jewish community is very supportive and welcomes Jerusalem as the capital,” Deutsch Burdman said.

There is nothing new about what the president has stated, Deutsch Burdman said. She said the president has just officially recognized what already has been a reality for the U.S.

“He expressed the United States’ long standing position, moving toward a decision which would hopefully end in a situation where the states will live side-by-side with peace,” Deutsch Burdman said.

She said she hopes the two parties can get back to working on negotiations and look toward a long-term solution.

“What the president did was essentially recognize Israel’s rights to declare its own capital,” Deutsch Burdman said.

“We cannot solve our problems by making the same failed assumptions and repeating the same failed strategies of the past,” Trump said, brushing aside the appeals for caution from around the world.

Harsh objections came from a wide array of presidents and prime ministers. From the Middle East to Europe and beyond, leaders cautioned Trump that any sudden change on an issue as sensitive as Jerusalem not only risks blowing up the new Arab-Israeli peace initiative led by Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, but could lead to new violence in the region.

No government beyond Israel spoke up in praise of Trump or suggested it would follow his lead.

Israelis and Palestinians reacted in starkly different terms. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed Trump’s announcement as an “important step toward peace,” and Israeli opposition leaders echoed his praise. But Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Trump’s shift serves extremist groups that want religious war and signals U.S. withdrawal from being a peace mediator. Protesters in Gaza burned American and Israeli flags.

Trump’s declaration of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is a powerfully symbolic statement about a city that houses many of the world’s holiest sites. Trump cited several: the Western Wall that surrounded the Jews’ ancient Temple, the Stations of the Cross that depict Jesus along his crucifixion path, the al-Asqa Mosque where Muslims say their Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven.

And there are major ramifications over who should control the territory. The United States has never endorsed the Jewish state’s claim of sovereignty over any part of Jerusalem and has seen the city’s future as indelibly linked to the “deal of the century” between Israel and the Palestinians that Trump believes he can reach. Beyond Kushner, Trump has dispatched other top emissaries to the region in recent months in hopes of advancing new negotiations.