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Tensions Over Status of Jerusalem Triggers Debates in Georgia

By Khatia Kardava
Friday, December 22
The U.S. President Donald Trump's move to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and to transfer the U.S. embassy to the holy city prompted international criticism and sparked protests across the world. Debates on what steps other states should take have also fueled up in Georgia since the small country in the Caucasus has been considered the most rigorous ally of the U.S. in the region.

The announcement has caused renewed tensions in Gaza strip the same week.

President Trump's decision was criticized by a number of countries around the world, including U.S. allies.

European Union Diplomatic Chief Federica Mogherini described Trump's announcement as a "dangerous" move that "discredited a bit the United States as an honest broker" in the moribund Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan assessed the decision as a “lighted match.”

For small countries like Georgia, Trump’s announcement has also caused some controversy on the stance they should take.

On December 7, member of parliamentary majority Georgian Dream (GD) Shota Shalelashvili published his open letter to Prime Minister Kvirikashvili on Facebook suggesting that the Georgian government should “discuss its participation in this process together with its main strategic partner [the U.S.].”

Shalelashvili is of an opinion that such a course of action would “immediately bring benefits” to Georgia. He called on Kvirikashvili to give “an adequate assessment to the importance of issue,” allowing Georgia to “become a supporter and a participant of a crucial global political process together with the U.S.”

The initiative was met with a rebuke among the Georgian Dream (GD) leadership, with PM Kvirikashvili stating that addressing open letters to Prime Minister on such sensitive matters from a member of the parliamentary majority was “unacceptable” to him.

Three MPs supported the public opinion of Shalelashvili: Zviad Kvatchantiradze, a member of GD, Irma Inashvili from the Alliance of Patriots and majoritarian MP of Khashuri, Simon Nozadze.

Following Shalelashvili, founder and head of the "Israeli House" in Georgia Isik Moshe also addressed Georgia’s Prime Minister and Parliament Speaker. According to him, Georgia should be one of the countries to support the decision of the U.S. President Donald Trump on the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

However, Georgian authorities are in no hurry to comment on the situation.

“The issue is very sensitive,” stated Prime Minister Kvirikashvili. “We shall have a discussion about this issue, and Georgia will state its position on the basis of its national interests, considering the international situation and threats that exist in the region.”

The Georgian Foreign Ministry also published a statement.

“Georgia supports the international community’s efforts aimed at the peaceful settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict based on agreements reached in dialogue,” the Foreign Ministry stated.

Former Foreign Minister of Georgia Irakli Menagharishvili also says that Georgia should consider a wider political context on the issue.

“Trump's decision was met with protests not only by Arab but the entire Islamic world. We mustn’t forget that we have half a million Muslims residing in our country,” a political scientist Soso Tsintsadze pointed out.

“I’m a half Jew,” commented a political scientist Gia Kukhashvili to Echo of the Caucasus, “Emotions dictate that Jerusalem’s status as the capital should be recognized, but on the basis of state interests, I would not rush to support the decision of the U.S.”

Kukhashvili clearly stressed that Georgia should not feel obliged to follow the U.S. President’s stance regarding the status of Jerusalem.

“Trump’s decision increases risks in the Middle East. Georgia should not be the second country to support his decision. We are already a target in a complicated region without that,” he said.