JERUSALEM -- French and Israeli leaders sparred verbally Sunday while new violence rippled across the region over the U.S. decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital.
In Jerusalem, a Palestinian stabbed an Israeli security guard, seriously wounding him in the first attack in the volatile city since President Donald Trump's pronouncement Wednesday. Arab foreign ministers meeting in Cairo demanded that the United States rescind the decision.
The move upended decades of U.S. policy, and a long-standing international consensus, that the fate of Jerusalem be decided in negotiations. Israeli and Palestinian claims to the city's eastern sector form the emotional core of their conflict, and Trump's announcement was seen as siding with the Israelis and has drawn wide international criticism.
At a meeting in Paris with Israel's visiting prime minister, French President Emmanuel Macron condemned recent violence against Israelis. But he also expressed "disapproval" of Trump's decision, calling it "dangerous for peace."
"It doesn't seem to serve, in the short term, the cause of Israel's security and the Israelis themselves," Macron said.
He urged Israel to freeze its construction of settlements on occupied lands and called for other confidence-building measures toward the Palestinians.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has called Trump's decision "historic," said Israel has maintained its capital in the city for 70 years and the Jewish connection to Jerusalem goes back 3,000 years.
"Paris is the capital of France, Jerusalem is the capital of Israel," he said. "We respect your history and your choices. And we know that as friends, you respect ours."
"I think the sooner the Palestinians come to grips with this reality, the sooner we move toward peace," he added.
The exchange between the two allies set the stage for what could be a tense meeting today for Netanyahu with European Union foreign ministers in Brussels. The Jerusalem issue and the moribund peace process are expected to be high on the agenda.
Earlier Sunday, Macron's office said the president talked by telephone with his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, urging him to tone down his reaction to Trump's decision. Erdogan called Israel a "state of occupation," prompting Netanyahu to say he wouldn't accept lectures on morality from a leader who has bombed Kurdish villages, jailed journalists and helped Iran evade international sanctions.
Macron said he shared Erdogan's opposition to Trump's move and "underlined the necessity of avoiding negative repercussions throughout the region and contributing to an easing of tensions, to restore chances of peace," his office said in a statement.
While awaiting any new proposals from the Trump administration, Israel should "make gestures towards the Palestinians," such as freezing the construction of settlements, Macron said.
Previous French leaders, feeling the United States was stalling action on behalf of its ally, Israel, have tried to start initiatives to revive talks between Israel and the Palestinians, only to give up. Netanyahu said Sunday that he's always willing to sit down and negotiate with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Last week, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini warned that Trump's decision "has the potential to send us backward to even darker times than the one we are already living in."
She also warned that Trump's "move could diminish the potential role that the United States could play in the region and create more confusion around this."
MORE TO COME
The meeting could be a precursor for what seems to be an emerging rift between Israel and the U.S. on one side, and Europe and the Palestinians on the other.
Abbas has said Trump's decision has in effect disqualified the United States from continuing in its role as the traditional mediator of peace talks. The Palestinians have spent recent days trying to rally Arab and broader international opposition to the decision.
After Abbas political adviser Majdi Khaldi said Saturday that the Palestinian leader won't meet with Vice President Mike Pence when he visits the region this month, a spokesman for Pence said Sunday that it was "unfortunate that the Palestinian Authority is walking away again from an opportunity to discuss the future of the region."
EU leaders, including Macron, have reiterated support for establishing an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel. Trump has said he would support the idea if both sides endorse it -- effectively giving Israel a veto over any peace proposal. Netanyahu's government is dominated by opponents to Palestinian independence. Trump's Middle East team, headed by his son-in-law Jared Kushner, has been working for months on a peace plan but has not yet released it.
Israel captured east Jerusalem from Jordan in the 1967 Middle East war and annexed the area to its capital in a move that was not internationally recognized. The Palestinians claim east Jerusalem as the capital of a future state, along with the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
East Jerusalem is home to Judaism's most sacred site, as well as key holy places for Christians and Muslims. These conflicting claims have resulted in deadly bloodshed in the past.
A senior U.S. official appealed to world leaders, especially in the Middle East, to calm regional tensions.
Acting Assistant Secretary of State David Satterfield told Arab journalists that Trump's pronouncement was merely a "recognition of simple reality" that Israel's government already is in Jerusalem.
He said the United States was not prejudging final-status negotiations about the city's final borders and expressed hope that world leaders understand the U.S. is committed to moving forward with a peace plan he expects to be unveiled in the new year.
"This is a question of choice: Do leaders choose to speak to their peoples, to their regions in terms that reflect reality or in terms that incite or inflame?" he said. "We hope it's the former."
The Palestinians staged three "days of rage" after Trump's dramatic announcement, with clashes breaking out in flash points across the West Bank, east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, and Gaza militants firing rockets into Israel. Four people in Gaza were killed. In the West Bank, there were dozens of injuries, but no deaths.
There were indications that Sunday's stabbing at the Jerusalem bus station was motivated by Trump's move, although police did not officially confirm it.
They said the attacker was a 24-year-old Palestinian from the West Bank city of Nablus. Israeli media identified him as Yassin Abu al-Qarah, who posted on his Facebook page in recent days about Jerusalem, saying "our blood is devoted" to the holy city. Comments on his profile called him a hero for the alleged attack.
Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the guard suffered a serious wound to his upper body and the attacker was apprehended.
Palestinian youths also clashed in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, hurling stones at Israeli soldiers, who fired back with rubber bullets and tear gas.
In a resolution long on rhetoric but short on concrete actions, Arab foreign ministers demanded the recognition decision be rescinded and urged the U.N. Security Council to adopt a resolution condemning Trump's decision. They acknowledged that Washington would most likely veto it.
If the U.S. vetoes such a resolution, the Arabs would seek a similar resolution in the U.N. General Assembly, Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad Malki told a news conference in Cairo.
With few options for the Palestinians, and the Arab world preoccupied by other crises, Arab willingness to press the issue may be limited. In Paris, Netanyahu talked about his quiet but improving relations with Arab countries that look to Israel as an ally against Iran.
"There is in this a blessing, because this could help pave the way to an ultimate peace between us and our Palestinian neighbors and between us and the rest of the Arab world," he said.
Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., said the decision on Jerusalem would help the Middle East peace process.
"For those who want to say this is a bad idea, I'll tell you: Ask us five or 10 years from now if you still think it's a bad idea. Because I really do think this is going to move the ball in the peace process," she said Sunday on CNN's State of the Union.
Haley has staunchly defended Trump's decision, facing a barrage of criticism at the U.N. last week. The United States stood virtually alone as Security Council members described the move as rash, impulsive and prejudicial to the outcome of negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.
"What you saw was a courageous move by the president," Haley said Sunday on CBS' Face the Nation. Disputing the notion that Trump had pre-empted the city's status as part of any future peace agreement, she said: "He didn't talk about boundaries; he didn't talk about borders. He didn't get into any of that."
Information for this article was contributed by Josef Federman and Tia Goldenberg of The Associated Press; by Gregory Viscusi, Ben Brody, David Wainer, Gwen Ackerman and Lin Noueihed of Bloomberg News; and by Laura King of Tribune News Service.
Palestinians burn tires Sunday during clashes with Israeli troops in the West Bank city of Nablus after a protest against U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
A Section on 12/11/2017
Print Headline: Israel, France trade jabs over Jerusalem