US isolated at the UN | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, December 09, 2017 / LAST MODIFIED: 06:05 AM, December 09, 2017

US isolated at the UN

5 European nations say the new US policy contradicts UN resolution; 1 killed in 'day of rage'

The United States stood alone yesterday as one after another fellow UN Security Council member criticised its decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

The debate unfolded at a largely symbolic emergency meeting of the council -- no vote on a resolution was planned, as the US has veto power -- two days after President Donald Trump reversed two decades of US policy on the holy city.

Five European countries on the council insisted the new US policy is not in line with UN resolutions including one that considers east Jerusalem to be Israeli-occupied, reports AFP.

The meeting was convened by no fewer than eight of the 14 non-US members of the council.

This seemed a vivid show of the discord triggered by Trump's announcement, which included plans to move the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Asked what he expected to come from the UN meeting, one diplomat said: "Nothing." Another said the session would show US "isolation" on the issue.

The UN coordinator for the Middle East peace process, Nikolay Mladenov, warned that the US decision could lead to a spiral of violence among the Palestinians and others angered by what Trump has done.

Indeed, clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces yesterday left one person dead after calls for a "day of rage" from the Islamist movement Hamas.

The British ambassador to the UN, Matthew Rycroft, said flat out that Britain disagrees with Trump's move on Jerusalem and the embassy location.

"These decisions are unhelpful for the prospects for peace in the region," Rycroft said.

He urged Trump to now come up with detailed proposals for an Israel-Palestinian peace accord, a goal which has eluded the US and the international community for decades.

The status of Jerusalem is one of the most hotly contested issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Israel seized control of the east of the city in 1967 and later annexed it in moves never recognized by the international community.

Israel considers the city its undivided capital, but Palestinians believe the east is illegally occupied and see it as the capital of their future state. 

Israeli forces detain a Palestinian man at Damascus Gate in Jerusalem's Old City. Photo: Reuters, AFP

At Friday's meeting, US ambassador Nikki Haley defended Trump as remaining committed to the peace process and a two state solution if the Israelis and Palestinians choose this.

Haley said that in his reversal of US foreign policy, Trump was simply recognising reality, since the Israeli government and parliament are located in Jerusalem.

And she recalled that Trump insists his decision has no impact on whatever Israelis and Palestinians ultimately decide on boundaries and borders of the city, which is holy to Muslims, Christians and Jews.

"I understand the concerns that members have in calling this session," Haley said. "Change is hard."

'DAY OF RAGE'

Thousands of Palestinians demonstrated, scores were hurt and at least one killed in clashes with Israeli troops on a "day of rage" yesterday against Trump's decision.

Across the Arab and Muslim worlds, tens of thousands demonstrators took to the streets expressing solidarity with the Palestinians and outrage at Trump's reversal of decades of US policy.

Trump's announcement on Wednesday prompted an almost universal diplomatic backlash, including warnings from Turkey, the European Union and Russia over the risks of fresh violence in the Middle East.

Diplomatic fallout from the deeply controversial declaration also continued, with suggestions Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas could refuse to meet US Vice President Mike Pence on his visit to the region later this month.

The Israeli army said hundreds of Palestinians were rolling burning tyres and throwing rocks at soldiers across the border.

"During the riots IDF soldiers fired selectively towards two main instigators and hits were confirmed," it said.

More than 80 Palestinians were wounded in the occupied West Bank and Gaza by Israeli live fire and rubber bullets, according to the Palestinian Red Crescent ambulance service. Dozens more suffered from tear gas inhalation. Thirty-one were wounded on Thursday.

Police said more than 50 people were arrested in the West Bank.

As Friday prayers ended at the Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, worshippers made their way toward the walled Old City gates, chanting "Jerusalem is ours, Jerusalem is our capital," and "We don't need empty words, we need stones and Kalashnikovs". Some scuffles broke out between protesters and police.

In Hebron, Bethlehem and Nablus, dozens of Palestinians threw stones at Israeli soldiers who fired back with tear gas.

In Gaza, controlled by the Islamist group Hamas, calls for worshippers to protest sounded over mosque loudspeakers. Hamas has called for a new Palestinian uprising like the "intifadas" of 1987-1993 and 2000-2005 that together saw thousands of Palestinians and more than 1,000 Israelis killed.

"Whoever moves his embassy to occupied Jerusalem will become an enemy of the Palestinians and a target of Palestinian factions," said Hamas leader Fathy Hammad as protesters in Gaza burnt posters of Trump. "We declare an intifada until the liberation of Jerusalem and all of Palestine."

Israel considers all of Jerusalem to be its capital. Palestinians want the eastern part of the city as the capital of a future independent state of their own. Most countries consider East Jerusalem, which Israel annexed after capturing it in the 1967 Middle East War, to be occupied territory, including the Old City, home to sites considered holy to Muslims, Jews and Christians alike.

For decades, Washington, like most of the rest of the international community, held back from recognising Jerusalem as Israel's capital, saying its status should be determined as part of the Palestinian-Israeli peace process. No other country has its embassy there.

The Trump administration argues that the peace process has become moribund, and outdated policies need to be jettisoned for the sides in the conflict to make progress. Administration officials say all serious peace plans call for Israel to have its capital in Jerusalem, whatever the outcome of other issues.

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