What do you think? Leave a respectful comment.

How Israelis and Palestinians see Trump’s Jerusalem move

While Israeli leaders praised President Trump’s decision to officially recognize Jerusalem as their capital, many Palestinians are upset by the announcement. For both perspectives, Judy Woodruff gets reaction from Danny Danon, Israel’s ambassador to the U.N., and Husam Zomlot of the Palestinian National Authority.

Read the Full Transcript

  • Judy Woodruff:

    We return now to our lead story, President Trump's announcement that the U.S. government will now recognize Jerusalem is Israel's capital and begin the process of moving the U.S. Embassy there from Tel Aviv.

    For how the Israeli government is reacting to this news, I am joined by Danny Danon. He is Israel's ambassador to the United Nations.

    Ambassador Danon, thank you very much for joining us.

    Your reaction, your government's reaction to what President Trump had to say?

  • Danny Danon:

    Thank you for having me today.

    It's a courageous move by a courageous president, and we are grateful. You know, we heard in the past, from 1995, from many presidents that they will do that, and they didn't do it.

    And, today, we saw a leader who actually took this important step. We know that Jerusalem is our capital. We didn't need this resolution to know that. But for 3,000 years, since the days of King David, Jerusalem is our capital.

    And since 1949, when the modern state of Israel was established, Jerusalem is our capital. And we are happy to see that the U.S. took the leadership. Other countries are already following the U.S. And we think it will be fruitful for the peace negotiations. It will be a reality check for the other players that we need to move on. We need to move forward.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Was your government urging President Trump to do this? Did you expect him to do this?

  • Danny Danon:

    It is an American decision.

    Whenever I was asked about this issue, I said, sure, we want to see not only the American Embassy. We want to see all embassies in Jerusalem. But it is an internal American issue. But we respect this decision. We are grateful for this decision.

    And, you know, it reminds me, reading about our history, that, in 1948, President Truman was debating whether to recognize Israel or not. And many people threatened him that it would be very dangerous, there will be a lot of violence. And it took this bold decision, and we saw what happened 70 years later. We have a beautiful, strong democracy, the state of Israel.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, as you know, the reaction from Arab and Muslim leaders is very different. We're already hearing about protests in the streets.

    The leaders of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and others are saying they think this is a mistake, that it's going to be harmful to the peace process. How do you answer that?

  • Danny Danon:

    We respect our neighbors.

    Prime Minister Netanyahu says very clearly that we look forward to negotiate with other partners. By the way, we already have peace treaties with Jordan and Egypt. And I think it's about time that we negotiated with other partners in the region.

    And if you heard very carefully to the president today, he spoke about the future. He spoke about the possibilities. And I think those countries also heard the voices coming from the declaration that, yes, he is moving the embassy. It will take a few years. Yes, he is recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, but still, he said, let's move on with the peace process.

    So I think we should be optimistic about it.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But how — I guess my question is, how does this advance the cause of peace? Because it's being seen as, in effect, a stick in the eye of those who represent and believe in the — that the Palestinians deserve an equal voice.

  • Danny Danon:

    Well, I think it's exactly the opposite, because if you analyze the resolution, the president spoke about recognizing Jerusalem.

    In Jerusalem, you have western parts and eastern parts. We consider Jerusalem to be the undivided capital of Israel, no east, no west. But even our partners in the Middle East, when they speak about a future agreement, they recognize that Jerusalem will be a part of the Israel.

    So why they are against it? Because everybody knows that the embassy, where it will be placed, it will not be in the eastern part of Jerusalem. It will be in the western part of Jerusalem.

    So I think if you really care about peace, this is the right decision because it tells the Palestinians, you have to make your mind, if you want to move forward or stay behind.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So you're arguing that this makes — it makes it easier to reach a peace agreement?

  • Danny Danon:

    I think it actually ignites the process.

    We have seen what happened in the last 20 years, so many resolutions. Last year, in December, there was a shameful resolution in the Security Council, Resolution 2334, speaking about the peace process. What happened a year later? Nothing.

    So, I think there is a possibility here that it will be a wakeup call for the Palestinians, a reality check, and they will understand that they will have to come back to the negotiating table to negotiate with the Israelis and to move forward.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    I mentioned the leaders of other countries. Turkey's president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is saying this could mean that Turkey cuts diplomatic relations with Israel.

  • Danny Danon:

    Well, we have diplomatic relations with Turkey. We have had our issues that we resolved with Turkey.

    And I think if the Turkey government would like to be involved, they would understand that, in order to be involved, you need to engage, not to cut, not to threat. And that's what we do with other countries in the region. We engage. Even with some countries which we do not have diplomatic relations yet openly, but we engage with them.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    As you know, Ambassador Danon, there's going to be or there's been called an emergency meeting of the leaders of the Arab countries.

    What is your message to them as they gather and they look at this as a move on the part of the United States in Israel's favor and against their interests?

  • Danny Danon:

    I think my call to them is to urge all parties to come back to the negotiating table.

    This is the only way to move forward. You cannot do it through the U.N. You cannot do it through the Arab League, the Security Council, the E.U. With all due respect to all those organizations and bodies, the only way to move forward is to have direct negotiations. That's how we achieved peace in the past with the Egyptians, with the Jordanians, and that will be the only way to move forward with the Palestinians.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Ambassador Danny Danon, the ambassador of Israel to the United Nations, thank you very much.

  • Danny Danon:

    Thank you very much.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Many Palestinians, as we have said, are upset by today's announcement.

    And for their perspective, I'm joined now by Husam Zomlot. He's currently the chief representative of the PLO delegation to the United States.

    Mr. Zomlot, thank you very much for joining us.

    Your reaction, first of all, to this announcement by President Trump.

  • Husam Zomlot:

    Thank you for having me.

    Actually, today's announcement is a bad day for peace in the Middle East. We were anticipating and waiting for President Trump's promise to have a comprehensive, lasting, durable peace, what he coined as the ultimate deal.

    We have been engaged with him, and we have met his team for many, many times, tens of times. Actually, only the end of last week, I myself and senior Palestinian representatives came to Washington and met the Trump administration and discussed the ultimate deal — deal.

    And all of this comes out of the blue, actually. And instead of injecting peace on the discussion, now this has injected anxiety, suspicion, anger. And perhaps this has also delivered a blow to the peace process and to the role of the U.S. in the peace process, and also to the constituency of peace, to the peace camp, those who — the hundreds of millions of people who want to see peace in the Middle East.


  • Judy Woodruff:

    So you — if I could just interrupt, so you're saying you had no inkling this was coming? Because President Trump was saying today this is fulfilling a campaign promise. It was a law that's been on the books.

  • Husam Zomlot:

    No, we had no clue whatsoever this was coming.

    As I confirmed, we were engaging them for the ultimate deal. And we agreed with President Trump, whom we met with three times with our president, President Abbas, in a matter of a few weeks in the White House, in Bethlehem in Palestine, and again in New York.

    And in all these meetings, President Trump confirmed that his interests is strategic, that he wants to focus on the big picture, that he thinks peace is possible and he thinks he is the one who can deliver finally what is desired, that is, peace in the Middle East.

    And he's the one who said, let's not discuss details and issues and sidetracks and distractions. And, all of a sudden, we have this biggest distraction that aggravated everybody and that has been a precious gift to those who do not want to see a solution, to the non-solutionists, to the extremists, to the Armageddonists, actually, who do not want to see the conflict as a political legal one that could be resolved, but a religious one that will never be involved.

    To the setteler movement in Israel, your previous — your previous guest, the Israeli ambassador, did say that, you know, West Jerusalem and East Jerusalem, but, at the same time, he says Jerusalem will always be united.

    And the Israeli Knesset has annexed, illegally, East Jerusalem. So, this mincing of words and playing on words is no longer convincing.

    The issue is, do we have a credible, genuine peace process? Is the U.S. an honest, fair arbitrator? Are we going into the direction of the international consensus for a two-state solution? If we are, Jerusalem is at the heart of all this. And President Trump, unfortunately, has delivered a very, very damaging blow to the three things, to the role of America, to the two-state solution, and to the hopes for peace.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, when you — you did hear the Israeli ambassador to the U.N. say that, while everybody knows the embassy will be in West Jerusalem, this shouldn't be offensive. He also said that he thinks this should instigate the peace process for you, for your interests, for the Palestinians.

  • Husam Zomlot:

    You know, peace processes means negotiations, means that we sit to talk and discuss. It doesn't mean unilateral acts.

    And what happened today was a unilateral act by the U.S. president to decide on a matter that should have been decided upon by negotiations based on very clear, well-defined framework and bases.

    These bases have been determined by the U.S. since 1991 through written letters to us. Secretary Baker wrote to us in 1991, to the Palestinian leadership and to the Palestinians saying that, we invite you to the Madrid peace process, based on the U.S. commitment to the U.N. Security Council Resolutions 242, 338, i.e, land for peace, that Israel must end its occupation that began in 1967, including East Jerusalem.

    In that letter, by the way, Secretary Baker confirmed that the U.S. will not recognize Israel's control of the city or Israel's annexation of East Jerusalem, that East Jerusalem will remain occupied.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, let me…

  • Husam Zomlot:

    And, therefore, this is reneging.

    Just last sentence. President Trump today reneged on the U.S. commitment. And it was a U-turn that was absolutely unexpected. And, therefore, it leaves the peace process in the limbo.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, so, from — are you saying, Mr. Zomlot, from the PLO perspective, then, that this is the end of the peace process? Or you can still sit down at the negotiating table under any circumstances with the Israelis and the Americans?

  • Husam Zomlot:

    There is decades-long, long-held U.S. policy, international consensus, international resolutions, including the one that was passed in December, and your previous guest referred to, that the U.S. actually abstained in acceptance of it, about the controls of the solution.

    We have accepted the Palestinians, long ago, the international consensus of legitimacy. We have accepted the U.S. conditions on us. Those were three.

  • Judy Woodruff:


  • Husam Zomlot:

    The first to recognize Israel on 78 percent of our land, recognize U.N. resolutions, and renounce violence.

  • Judy Woodruff:


  • Husam Zomlot:

    And we have recognized, ma'am, we have recognized Israel all along.

    But this recognition doesn't mean that we must recognize Israel's expansion, Israel's colonialism, Israel's appropriation of our land.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, let me finally ask you, where do you see this going from here? You're not saying this is the end?

  • Husam Zomlot:

    No, no, this is not the end, no. This is not the end.

    We, the Palestinians, are committed to the three principles. We are committed to peace. Believe you me, our generations are aching for an end to this and a new beginning.

    We have so many people who want a state that they can call home, a passport, an airport, a school, a cinema they can watch nice movies in it.

    And I'm saying it this way because we are tired. We also want to see an end to this, but not at any cost. We are a dignified nation. In fact, we are nation that has produced all religions.

    We are celebrating Christmas now. Bethlehem is the birthplace of Jesus and Christianity. We are such an ancient nation. And surrender is nothing we know. But we know the message of Jesus. We know the message of peace. We celebrate it.

    We are a model in the region of — a model as a society, the Palestinians, of diversity and tolerance. We will hang on the hope of peace.

    But we cannot find peace in such dictations. We cannot find peace in such unilateral acts. I wish President Trump had stayed on course on the ultimate deal, stayed on course on the strategic action, not such an act that has really inserted much anxiety in the hearts of hundreds of millions of people, Christians and Muslims, worldwide.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Husam Zomlot, who is the PLO, the chief representative of the PLO delegation to the United States, we thank you very much.

  • Husam Zomlot:

    Thank you.

Listen to this Segment