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Why Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem is a big deal

IAHMAD GHARABLI/AFP/Getty Images

Palestinian men watched an address given by President Trump at a cafe in Jerusalem.

By Globe Staff 

Here’s a look at why President Trump’s decision Wednesday to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is big news:

The debate over Jerusalem is a part of the larger debate over Israeli-Palestinian peace

The fate of Jerusalem has been one of the key issues in the larger conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians, which has been going on for decades. The Israelis say all of Jerusalem is their capital, including East Jerusalem, which Israel seized from Jordanian control in 1967. Palestinians want East Jerusalem to be the capital of a future Palestinian state. Countries around the world have refused to recognize the hotly contested city as the Israeli capital. Now the United States has become the first country to do so.

Jerusalem is important to three religions

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Jerusalem is far more than just a normal piece of disputed land. The city is a holy site for three world faiths: Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. Jews believe the picturesque Old City in East Jerusalem is where King Solomon built the first temple. Muslims believe it’s where the prophet Mohammed ascended to heaven. And Christians believe it’s where Jesus was crucified and resurrected.

Recognizing Jerusalem is a break from decades of US policy

Trump’s move, a departure from the policy of past presidents both Republican and Democratic, has been welcomed by Israel. But it has been decried by Arab and European leaders, including key US allies. A Palestinian envoy said the move was the “kiss of death” to any peace process. A wave of violence is feared across the region. In the future, the move is expected to make it difficult for the United States to look like an impartial mediator. But Trump insisted Wednesday in his announcement that his actions weren’t intended to reflect a departure from the United States’ “strong commitment to facilitate a lasting peace” in the region. He said he still wanted a “peace agreement acceptable to both sides.” He also said the “specific boundaries” of Israel in Jerusalem would be “up to the parties involved.”