WASHINGTON: The U.S. is formally recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, President Donald Trump announced Wednesday brushing aside broad-based international opposition.
He is also directing the State Department to initiate the relocation of the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which is claimed by Israelis and Palestinians. The move is expected to take a number of years.
“My announcement today marks the beginning of a new approach to conflict between Israel and the Palestinians,” Trump said during a public address from the Diplomatic Reception Room at the White House.
“There will of course be disagreement and dissent regarding this announcement — but we are confident that ultimately, as we work through these disagreements, we will arrive at a place of greater understanding and cooperation,” he said. “This is nothing more or less than a recognition of reality.”
Trump’s decision places the U.S. at odds with decades of American policy, as well as the rest of the international community, except Israel. No nation has its embassy in Jerusalem. It is also likely to stymy any effort to restart long-stalled peace Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
In the waning days of former President Barack Obama’s administration, then-Secretary of State John Kerry said Palestinians have a shared claim to the holy city.
Trump’s controversial move is nearly certain to derail peace talks between Palestinians and Israelis. Palestinians have been seeking East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state. It has been occupied by Israel since 1967.
Trump will sign a six-month waiver off-setting the embassy’s relocation on national security grounds, according to an official knowledgeable on the matter.
Successive U.S. presidents of both parties have signed the waiver since the Jerusalem Embassy Act went into law in 1995, perpetually forestalling the building’s legislated move over concerns it could spark a diplomatic crisis and be a death knell for peace talks.
“Some say they lacked courage, but they made their best judgement based on facts as they understood them at the time,” Trump said referring to past presidents who signed the waiver. “Nevertheless the record is in.
After more than two decades of waivers we are no closer to a lasting peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. It would be folly to assume that repeating the same formula would now produce a different or better result.”
Palestinian leaders have already called for three “days of rage” to contest Trump’s decision. Jerusalem is considered holy to Jews, Christians and Muslims, and changes to contested city’s status quo have been met with fierce opposition.
Israel’s decision to restrict Muslim access to the al-Aqsa mosque compound in 2015 set off widespread street violence between Palestinians and Israeli security forces.