Israel's Netanyahu hails Trump's decision on Jerusalem as "historic"

2017-12-07 01:39:58 GMT2017-12-07 09:39:58(Beijing Time) Xinhua English

JERUSALEM, Dec. 6 (Xinhua) -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday lauded U.S. President Donald Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital as a "historic" move.

Minutes after Trump made the announcement in a speech at the White House, Netanyahu released a pre-recorded video message, in which he thanked Trump's "courageous decision" which shows American commitment to "an ancient but enduring truth".

"The President's decision is an important step towards peace, for there is no peace that doesn't include Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel," the Israeli leader said.

Netanyahu also said he remains committed to "advancing peace" with the Palestinians and all of Israel's neighbors. "We will continue to work with the President and his team to make that dream of peace come true," he said.

At the same time, Netanyahu called on other countries to follow the U.S. example by recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital and to move their embassies there.

He added that "there would be no change to the status quo at the holy sites."

Jerusalem, which is home to holy sites sacred to Jews, Muslims and Christians, lies at the core of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. Trump's controversial move is expected to enrage the Muslim world, which has already warned of serious consequences.

While Israel took over East Jerusalem from Jordan in the 1967 war and declared the whole city as its eternal indivisible capital in 1980, it has not been recognized by the international community.

The Palestinians insist that they should establish an independent state with East Jerusalem as its capital in the final settlement.

Under the Israeli-Palestinian peace accord, the status of Jerusalem should be determined through the final-status talks between Israel and the Palestinians. All countries, including the U.S., have so far located their embassies in Tel Aviv, in order to advance the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

Trump's three predecessors repeatedly halted the relocation of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem despite the passage of a law by U.S. Congress in 1995 to do so, citing it could derail the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

There has been rising concern in Israel that the American recognition would lead to a fresh round of violence between Israel and the Palestinians, who are already despaired with the peace process stalled since 2014 due to Israel's policy to expand settlements in the Palestinian territories.

In his reaction to the Trump announcement, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin called its as the most "fitting or beautiful gift" for Israel which will celebrate the 70th anniversary of statehood next year.

Rivlin added that it was "a landmark in the recognition of the right of the Jewish people to our land".

Other high-ranking Israeli officials also welcomed Trump's statement to declare U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennet, leader of the nationalist Jewish Home party, said it was a "bright day" for the Jewish people.

On her twitter page, Israeli opposition member and former foreign minister Tzipi Livni, wrote that the U.S. recognition is "important, symbolic and exciting, no less."

She also called on Netanyahu to support the two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians "as the basis for negotiations."

But Zehava Galon, leader of the left wing Meretz party, said on Israel's Kann news channel that Trump's decision will not help "jumpstart a regional move toward peace".