President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the
capital of Israel and eventually move the U.S. Embassy there from Tel Aviv
continued to have repercussions across the Middle East on Saturday.
violence continued for a third day in Gaza, the leader of Egypt’s Coptic Church
and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas both canceled plans to meet with Vice
President Mike Pence during Pence’s visit to the region later this month.
A statement from the Coptic Orthodox Church of Egypt said
Trump’s decision “did not take into account the feelings of millions of Arab
On Friday, the grand imam Al-Azhar Mosque in Cairo, also said he
would not meet with Pence, Egyptian media reported.
Late Saturday, the Arab League issued a statement calling on
Trump to reverse his decision, which it described as a “dangerous violation of
“The decision amounts to the legalization of occupation,” Ahmed
Aboul-Gheit, leader of the Arab League, said in Cairo on Saturday at the start
of an emergency meeting of the league’s foreign ministers.
The decision, he said, raised questions about whether Washington
could continue to be a peace mediator, not just in the Middle East but across
The Trump administration appeared to have no immediate public
reaction to Saturday’s developments. But U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson
on Thursday defended Trump’s decision, saying it called for few changes from
what the U.S. is already doing, and that reactions in the Middle East have been
"The reality is, as you wake up today after this
announcement, is nothing is different, other than the president has now
implemented the 1995 law" that calls on the administration to move the
U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, Tillerson said, according to CNN.
Tillerson also noted that the planned relocation of the U.S.
Embassy was unlikely to happen quickly.
"We have to acquire a site, we have to develop building
plans, we'll have to construct a building," Tillerson said, according to
CNN. "So this is not something that will happen overnight."
On Friday, Tillerson rejected the notion that Trump’s decision
would block the Palestinians from retaining a portion of Jerusalem.
“In fact, he was very clear, I think, the final status of
Jerusalem, including the borders, would be left to the parties to negotiate and
decide,” Tillerson said, according to Reuters.
Violence in Gaza
Meanwhile, violence continued in Gaza for a third day, Reuters reported. Israeli air strikes killed two Palestinian fighters Saturday
after militants fired rockets into Israel on Friday, which had been declared a
“day of rage” by Palestinian factions, the report said.
In Europe, pro-Palestinian demonstrators staged protests in Rome
and in Paris, where Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was scheduled to
meet Sunday with French President Emmanuel Macron.
Netanyahu: No condemnation for airstrikes?
Netanyahu defended Trump’s Jerusalem decision.
“I hear [from Europe] voices of condemnation over President
Trump’s historic announcement but I have not heard any condemnation for the
rocket firing against Israel that has come [after the announcement] and the
awful incitement against us,” Netanyahu said, according to Reuters.
In Rome, some Italian demonstrators expressed dismay that
Italy's top cycling race, Giro d'Italia, will start next year in Jerusalem.
Other protesters held Palestinian flags, and some shouted
slogans against Israel. One participant held a sign reading, "Jerusalem is
the eternal capital of the State of Palestine."
In Paris, tensions grew at the Place de la Republique
demonstration when pro-Israeli protestors approached the rally brandishing
Israeli and U.S. flags. The police separated both groups and no further
incidents were reported.