U.S. President Donald Trump has decided to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, a decision that breaks with decades of international consensus and has sparked fears of a new conflict in the Middle East. Trump will also begin the process to move the U.S. embassy.
A senior administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity on Tuesday evening, said Trump will make the announcement from the White House at 1 p.m. ET on Wednesday. He said it will fulfill a major campaign promise that other U.S. presidents failed to carry out.
The official explained that Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is a reflection of both the “historic reality” and the “modern reality.” It is not expected to determine the city’s boundaries or the status of Temple Mount.
As part of the recognition, Trump will direct the U.S. State Department to begin the process to move the U.S. Embassy to a site in Jerusalem, although a specific site or part of the city has not yet been chosen. The official explained that moving an embassy is a process that takes several years.
The status of Jerusalem, the seat of Israel’s government, is a sensitive subject as the city is of great religious significance to Jews, Christians and Muslims. The Palestinians seek to make East Jerusalem the capital of a Palestinian state.
Trump’s controversial decision is expected to provoke a mixed reaction in the Middle East. The U.S. State Department, bracing for potential violence and protests, has banned U.S. government employees and their families from traveling to Jerusalem’s Old City and the West Bank.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, during a phone call with Trump, warned that recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital will have “grave consequences” for the region’s stability. It will also have detrimental consequences for the peace process and the prospect of a two-state solution, he added.
Other leaders also expressed their concern.
“[Saudi King Salman] reiterated that such a dangerous step of relocation (of the embassy) or recognition of Al-Quds (Jerusalem) as the capital of Israel would constitute a flagrant provocation of Muslims all over the world, as per its lofty status to them and as it is the cradle of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the first direction they faced in their daily prayers,” state-run media reported.
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