By TOI staff and Agencies 4 September 2020
US president says Muslim-majority Kosovo recognizing Israel is part of a shift in bringing peace to Middle East, promises ‘more Islamic and Arab nations will follow soon’
The Palestinian Authority on Friday slammed US President Donald Trump, accusing him of orchestrating the decision by Serbia and Kosovo to establish embassies in Jerusalem to satisfy his “electoral ambitions.”
During a summit at the White House between Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Kosovo’s Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti to normalize economic ties between the Balkan nations, Trump announced that Serbia would move its embassy to Jerusalem and Muslim-majority Kosovo would recognize Israel and establish full diplomatic relations.
The White House announcement provided Trump with a diplomatic win ahead of the November presidential election and furthers his administration’s push to improve Israel’s international standing.
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu later revealed that Kosovo would also establish its embassy in Jerusalem, while Israel would recognize Kosovo.
Top PLO official and Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat reacted angrily to the news.
“The Trump Administration once again shows their full commitment with the violation of international law, UN resolutions and denial of Palestinian rights by encouraging nations to illegally recognize annexed Jerusalem as Israel’s capital,” Erakat tweeted.
“Palestine has become a victim of the electoral ambitions of President Trump, whose team would take any action, no matter how destructive for peace and a rules-based world order, to achieve his re-election,” Erakat charged.
Palestine has become a victim of the electoral ambitions of President Trump, whose team would take any action, no matter how destructive for peace and a rules-based world order, to achieve his re-election. This, just like the UAE-Israel agreement, isn’t about Middle East Peace. — Dr. Saeb Erakat الدكتور صائب عريقات (@ErakatSaeb) September 4, 2020
Erakat appeared to call on the Arab League and Organisation of Islamic Cooperation to sanction Kosovo and Serbia, calling for “concrete measures against those who encourage crimes and violations against the land and people of Palestine.”
“What else will Trump procure for Israel before November?” said senior Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi.
But in Washington Trump senior advisor and son-in-law Jared Kushner, a key player in Middle East negotiations, said the moves advance peace and make Americans safer.
“Today’s breakthrough really is historic,” Kushner said at the White House.
“This is just another chapter that this administration has been able to write towards making the world a safer and more peaceful place,” he said.
Serbia’s decision to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem is a nod to both Israel and the United States. The Trump administration recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in late 2017 and moved the US embassy there in May 2018.
The administration has encouraged other countries to do the same but has been widely criticized by the Palestinians and many in Europe because the Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains unresolved. Kosovo, a predominantly Muslim country, has never before recognized Israel nor has Israel recognized Kosovo.
In all, a total of four countries now recognize contested Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, including the US and Guatemala. The Palestinians claim East Jerusalem, captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war, as their would-be capital.
The gestures to Israel are part of the Trump administration’s push to improve the Jewish state’s international standing, which has included forceful denunciations of criticism of Israel at the United Nations and in other international venues. Most recently, the administration brokered a deal for Israel and the UAE to normalize relations. That was followed by the first commercial flight between Israel and the UAE, with neighboring Saudi Arabia and Bahrain to allow such flights to pass through their airspace. Additional Arab states, including Sudan, Bahrain and Oman, have been identified as countries that may soon also normalize relations with Israel.
Trump on Friday indicated other nations could follow soon,
“And we have other countries in the Middle East coming very much to us and saying, like, ‘When do we go? When can we sign?,’ Trump said at the ceremony. “I think we’re going to have great peace in the Middle East. And nobody has been able to say that for a long time.”
He later tweeted: “Another great day for peace with Middle East – Muslim-majority Kosovo and Israel have agreed to normalize ties and establish diplomatic relations. Well-done! More Islamic and Arab nations will follow soon!”
Another great day for peace with Middle East – Muslim-majority Kosovo and Israel have agreed to normalize ties and establish diplomatic relations. Well-done! More Islamic and Arab nations will follow soon!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 4, 2020
Netanyahu said Friday that not only would Kosovo recognize Israel but it would open an embassy in Jerusalem, becoming the first Muslim-majority nation to do so.
Netanyahu hailed the moves and said Israel would establish diplomatic relations with Kosovo.
A statement from Netanyahu’s office said that during a meeting between Trump and Hoti, the president called Netanyahu and congratulated the two leaders on the decision to establish full diplomatic relations.
According to the statement, Hoti also announced that he would open an embassy in Jerusalem.
“Kosovo will be the first Muslim-majority nation to open an embassy in Jerusalem. As I said in recent days the circle of peace is expanding and more nations are expected to join,” Netanyahu said.
Kosovo President Hashim Thaci confirmed Prisitna’s intention, saying he welcomed Netanyahu’s announcement “about the genuine intention to recognize Kosovo and establish diplomatic relations.”
“Kosovo will keep its promise to place its diplomatic mission in Jerusalem,” he tweeted.
I welcome the announcement of Israeli PM @netanyahu about the genuine intention to recognize #Kosovo and establish diplomatic relations. Kosovo will keep its promise to place its diplomatic mission in #Jerusalem ????????????????????????
— Hashim Thaçi (@HashimThaciRKS) September 4, 2020
Trump said Serbia has committed to open a commercial office in Jerusalem this month and move its embassy there in July.
After the announcement, Netanyahu thanked Trump for his role in continuing to further Israel’s diplomatic standing.
“I thank my friend President Vucic of Serbia for his decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move their embassy,” Netanyahu said. ” I also want to thank my friend Donald Trump for his contribution to this achievement.”
A statement from Netanyahu’s office hailed Serbia for being the first European nation to agree to move its embassy and said efforts continued to convince other European nations to also do so.