Jerusalem decision sets off warnings

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Reaction was swift in Norway to US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The Norwegian government was quick to state its concerns, while leaders of the opposition in Parliament and wide variety of commentators were harshly critical and even had some warnings of their own.

Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg (left) has been trying to come to grips with new US President Donald Trump (center), and is shown with him here at his first NATO summit earlier this year. Now Solberg is openly worried about Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. At right, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, a former Norwegian prime minister who worked closely with Middle East peace efforts for years. PHOTO: Høyre

Prime Minister Erna Solberg, who leads Norway’s government in addition to the country’s Conservative Party, made her position clear just hours after Trump’s announcement. She declared on social media that she was “extremely worried” by what she called “the American decision” to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Solberg didn’t specifically blame Trump or even name him, but she warned that the decision he alone announced (after his predecessors had refused to do so) could push all sides in the conflict “farther away from the negotiating table.” She claimed that “Jerusalem’s status must be resolved through negotiations.”

Solberg’s new foreign minister, Ine Eriksen Søreiede, has already voiced her concerns  and went further Wednesday night, telling NRK that Trump’s decision could raise tensions in the region.

Trump’s decision ‘irresponsible’
Jonas Gahr Støre, leader of the opposition Labour Party who served as Norway’s foreign minister for many years under the government led by current NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg, was harshly critical of Trump’s decision. Støre, who was closely involved in Middle East peace negotiations, called Trump’s decision “irresponsible” and reminded Trump that “two groups of people have legitimate demands” to territory in Jerusalem,” where not just the Palestinians have long viewed Israel as occupying the area of Jerusalem that Muslims also view as holy.

Støre, in this situation, agrees with both Solberg and Søreide that “negotiations must decide” who has political authority over Jerusalem. Støre called Trump’s controversial decision “tragic for the Palestinians” and “not good for Israel’s security.” He also declared that Trump has “weakened the US” politically.

While several fundamental Christian organizations support Trump’s decision and have defended Israel’s policies and occupation of Palestinian territory, the leader of Norway’s Christian Democrats party found it “problematic.” Knut Arild Hareide wrote in a press release that a peace pact remains most important and that “making a decision on Jerusalem that’s outside a broad solution for peace is a case of bad timing.”

Also ‘unacceptable’
The leader of the Socialist Left party (SV), Audun Lysbakken, called Trump’s decision “unacceptable” and a “pure provocation” that will make negotiations for peace more difficult and raise the chances for a violent uproar. That was already occurring in in some parts of the Middle East Thursday morning. Lysbakken thinks Trump’s decision is “dangerous” and told NRK that “it’s sad the US chooses to play a destructive rather than constructive role” in the Middle East.

Several Norwegian commentators were stressing how Trump didn’t even mention the Palestinians in his announcement. They included Trond Bakkevig a theologist and pastor who’s long been involved in Middle East peace efforts, not least among Christians, Jews and Muslims. He made note of the omission on NRK’s national broadcast Wednesday night, while explaining how important and problematic Trumps decision can be.

Trump has long been far from popular in Norway.  Anxiety rose when he was inaugurated as US president in January and Norwegian politicans have been “shocked” by him. Solberg’s former foreign minister Børge Brende went to the unusual move of publicly criticizing Trump before he was elected, while later trying to show how Europe and Norway in particular are relevant to the US and Trump’s new administration.

On Thursday morning, the US Embassy in Oslo issued a warning to US citizens resident in Norway. The embassy clearly was concerned that Trump’s announcement and subsequent US recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel would “spark protests” that could “become violent.”

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund