In a big change from standard policy, the US is set to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. President Donald Trump will direct the State Department to initiate the process of moving the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, according reports. President Trump is expected to make the big announcement along with his policy tonight. “The President would say that the US government recognises that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. He views this as recognition of historic reality. Jerusalem has been the capital of Jewish people since ancient times and modern reality that it has been the seat of government, important ministries, its legislature, the Supreme court,” a senior administration official said. However, noting that finding appropriate land and construction of a new embassy would take at least a couple of years, officials said Trump would continue to give waiver – as required by the Congress — for not moving its diplomatic mission to Jerusalem. In taking this action, another senior administration official said, Trump will fulfill a major campaign promise that has been made by a number of previous presidential candidates.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, one of Donald Trump’s closest allies in the Middle East, urged the US president to be cautious, his office said, after reports Washington was planning to move its Israel embassy to Jerusalem. Trump had already informed Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas of his intention to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, Abbas’s office said.
What this would mean for Indians and the Modi government: Israel is considered as a vital cog in PM Modi’s foreign diplomacy. Earlier this year, PM Modi had visited the country. The three-day visit starting was aimed at commemorating 25 years of establishment of diplomatic ties between the two countries. PM Modi became the first Indian premier to visit Israel. The visit was hailed by Israel media. “Wake up: the most important PM of the world is coming,” one of the leading Israeli business daily wrote.
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Business daily ‘The Marker’ in a feature story in its Hebrew edition discussing Indo-Israel ties said that Israelis had set up huge expectations from US President Donald Trump’s visit to the Jewish state but “he didn’t say much” while Modi, a leader of 1.25 billion people enjoying massive popularity and representing one of the fastest growing economies of the world deserves a lot of attention. Other local newspapers and news portals also gave a lot of attention to the visit with The Jerusalem Post even creating a separate link, “Modi’s Visit”, where it has put up stories related to India.
Prime Minister Modi’s visit was preceded by several other high-profile visits, including the trip of National Security Adviser Ajit Doval, several senior secretaries, Minister of State for Agriculture S S Ahluwalia-led 11 member multi-party parliamentary delegation and Navy Chief Admiral Sunil Lanba.
While India and Israel have deepened ties in defence and security, the two sides were keen to project a broader relationship and strategic partnership in agriculture and water, innovation and science and technology, and space.
Rebecca Zeffert, Founder and Executive Director of Israel-Asia Centre in Jerusalem, said that India and Israel share many commonalities. “Both people have long histories spanning thousands of years, and deeply entrenched traditions, but emerged as modern states just a year apart from each other. They are both democracies in rough neighbourhoods, and have had to deal with seemingly insurmountable challenges…”
However, since the US move is likely to cause much resentment in neighbouring countries in general and Palestine in particular, anyone seen aligning with the move is likely to face a backlash. PM Modi has chosen to lean towards the Israeli government vis a vis Palestine as was evident from his recemnt trip to the Jewish country.