Indias muted response to Trumps Jerusalem move fuels Arab unease



NEW DELHI: A dozen Arab ambassadors have asked India to clarify its position on the U.S recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, diplomatic sources said, after New Delhi’s muted response suggested a shift in support for the Palestinian cause.

U.S. President Donald Trump abruptly reversed decades of U.S. policy this month when he recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, generating outrage from Palestinians. Trump also plans to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv.

Countries around the world, including U.S. allies Britain and France, criticised Trump’s decision, but India did not take sides.

Instead, the Indian foreign ministry in a brief statement, said India’s position was consistent and independent of any third party.

The bland statement made no reference to Jerusalem and prompted criticism at home that it was insufficient, vague and anti-Palestinian.

Israel maintains that all of Jerusalem is its capital. Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of a future independent state and say Trump’s move has left them marginalised and jeopardised any hopes of a two-state solution.

Last week, envoys from Arab states including Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Kuwait based in New Delhi met Indian junior foreign minister M.J. Akbar to brief the government about an Arab League meeting on Dec 9 condemning the U.S. decision, a diplomatic and an Indian government source said.

The envoys also sought a more forthright Indian response, the sources said.

But Akbar gave no assurance and the Indian source said the government had no plans for a further articulation on Jerusalem, which is at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“Akbar did not promise anything,” the diplomatic source briefed on the meeting said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of diplomatic sensitivities.

India was one of the earliest and vocal champions of the Palestinian cause during the days it was leading the Non-Aligned Movement while it quietly pursued ties with Israel.

But under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, New Delhi has moved to a more open relationship with Israel, lifting the curtain on thriving military ties and also homeland security cooperation.

Modi’s Hindu nationalist ruling group views Israel and India as bound together in a common fight against Islamist militancy and long called for a public embrace of Israel.

Modi in July made a first trip to Israel by an Indian prime minister and did not go to Ramallah, the headquarters of the Palestinian Authority and a customary stop for leaders trying to maintain a balance in political ties.

P.R. Kumaraswamy, a leading Indian expert on ties with Israel at New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University, said a “major shift” on India’s policy had been evident since early this year when Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas visited New Delhi.

“With the Palestinian president standing by his side, Prime Minister Modi reiterated India’s support for Palestinian statehood but carefully avoided any direct reference to East Jerusalem,” he said.

For decades, India’s support for a Palestinian state was accompanied by an explicit reference to East Jerusalem being the Palestinian capital. But Delhi has moved to a more balanced position, refusing to take sides in an explosive dispute, he said.

During the meeting last week, the ambassadors of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Somalia and the Palestinian Authority spoke, the diplomatic source said. Besides the dozen envoys there were charges d’affaires from several other countries in the region.

“They were expecting more from India, perhaps to denounce Israel and the U.S.” said former Indian ambassador to Jordan and Anil Trigunayat. “But would it really make a difference, adding one more voice?”



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Israel hails Trumps historic declaration Palestinians condemn



JERUSALEM/RAMALLAH: Israel hailed U.S. President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as its capital on Wednesday, but the Palestinians condemned the move and said it diminished Washington’s role as a peace mediator.

In a landmark speech in Washington, Trump reversed decades of U.S. policy in defiance of warnings from around the world that the gesture risked creating further unrest in the Middle East.

Past U.S. presidents have insisted that the status of Jerusalem – home to sites holy to the Jewish, Muslim and Christian religions – must be decided in negotiations between the two sides.

Palestinian factions called a general strike on Thursday throughout the occupied West Bank, the Gaza Strip and Palestinian areas of Jerusalem and for rallies to be held at midday (1000 GMT) in protest at Trump’s move, raising the chances of violent clashes.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a pre-recorded video message that Trump’s decision had made for a “historic day” and was “an important step towards peace”.

He added that any peace deal with the Palestinians would have to include Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and he urged other countries to follow the U.S. lead by also moving their embassies to the city.

He said there would be no change to access to Jerusalem’s holy sites. “Israel will always ensure freedom of worship for Jews, Christians, and Muslims alike.”

But Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Trump’s move was “tantamount to the United States abdicating its role as a peace mediator” and declared Jerusalem as the “eternal capital of the State of Palestine”.

Israel captured Arab East Jerusalem in the 1967 Middle East war. It later annexed it, declaring the whole of the city as its capital, a move not recognised internationally.

Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state which they want to establish in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

“With this announcement, the American administration has chosen to violate all international and bilateral agreements and resolutions and it has chosen to violate international consensus,” Abbas said.

The move, he said, would serve “the extremist groups which try to turn the conflict in our region into a religious war that will drag the region … into international conflicts and endless wars.”

Israeli-Palestinian peace talks have been frozen since 2014. Trump’s adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is leading Trump’s efforts to restart them but those efforts have shown little progress. Israel’s West Bank settlement building has been one of the main obstacles.

Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, which dominates the Gaza Strip, said Trump’s move was “flagrant aggression against the Palestinian people” and urged Arabs and Muslims to “undermine the U.S.’s interests in the region” and to “shun Israel.”



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U.S. top court lets Trumps latest travel ban go into full effect



WASHINGTON: The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday handed a victory to President Donald Trump by allowing his latest travel ban targeting people from six Muslim-majority countries to go into full effect even as legal challenges continue in lower courts. The court, with two of the nine justices dissenting, granted his administration’s request to lift two injunctions imposed by lower courts that had partially blocked the ban, which is the third version of a contentious policy that Trump first sought to implement a week after taking office in January.



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