Trump Announces Plans to Move US Embassy to Jerusalem

Hamas capital Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem
Dome of the Rock in the Old City of Jerusalem as seen from the Mount of Olives. Photo: Dennis Jarvis/Flickr

President Donald J. Trump recognized the city of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and confirmed he will order the American embassy in Israel to be moved there from Tel Aviv, in a break with seven decades of U.S. policy that international leaders have warned could undermine the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

“I have determined that it is time to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.” Mr. Trump said. “I am also directing the State Department to begin preparations to move the embassy.”

He said the U.S. remains committed a two-state solution “if agreed to by both sides.” Earlier, Mr. Trump said the move was “long overdue.”

A U.S. official said on Tuesday that the process of designing and building a new embassy could take years. The U.S. already has a consulate in Jerusalem and owns several sites in the city.

Israel declared Jerusalem its capital in 1949, but the international community largely recognizes East Jerusalem and the Old City to be part of Palestine. Palestinians consider it to be their capital.

On Monday, Mr. Trump missed the deadline to waive the U.S. Congressional requirement to relocate the embassy. The Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 mandated that the U.S. mission be relocated from Tel Aviv no later than May 31, 1999. All of Mr. Trump’s predecessors since Bill Clinton had invoked the act’s presidential waiver every six months. Mr. Trump also waived the requirement in June.

“After more than 2 decades of waivers we are no closer to a lasting peace agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians,” Mr. Trump said Wednesday.

International leaders warn against Jerusalem move

In a rare public statement, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said there was no alternative to a two-state solution. “Jerusalem is a final status issue that must be resolved through direct negotiations … taking into account the legitimate concerns of both the Palestinian and the Israeli sides,” he added.

Jordan and the Palestinians have called an urgent meeting of the Arab League association to be held on Saturday. The 22-member body considers Palestine a state.

A spokesperson for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said on Tuesday that Mr. Trump had told him he would be moving the U.S. mission to Jerusalem, and Jordanian media said Mr. Trump informed King Abdullah of the plans.

Mr. Trump “informed the president on his intention to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem,” a statement from Mr. Abbas’ spokesperson Nabil Abu Rudeineh said.

“The Palestinian stance is determined and steadfast – there will not be a Palestinian state without East Jerusalem as its capital according to decisions by the international community,” Mr. Rudeineh said, adding that Mr. Abbas was holding an emergency meeting following the phone call.

Jordan’s Petra news agency reported that Mr. Abdullah had offered Mr. Abbas his full support in maintaining the Palestinian city.

Hamas has called for a “day of rage” on Friday in protest of Mr. Trump’s decision, and other Palestinian parties have called for protests starting on Wednesday.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned Mr. Trump earlier on Tuesday that Jerusalem’s status is a “red line” for Muslims. Mr. Erdogan suggested that Turkey would cut diplomatic ties with Israel if the status quo is changed. He called for an emergency Organisation of Islamic Cooperation summit to be held on December 13.

Speaking after a meeting with Mr. Abdullah in Ankara on Wednesday, Mr. Erdogan said, “This mistaken step… will lead to public outrage in the entire Islamic world, dynamite the ground for peace and ignite new tensions and clashes in our region.”

Mr. Abdullah said he had told Mr. Trump of his concerns, and that there was “no alternative to a two-state solution.”

“This must allow the Palestinians to establish an independent state side by side with Israel and its capital in East Jerusalem,” he added.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, whose government helped broker a deal between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority earlier this year, spoke with Mr. Trump on Tuesday, and stressed “Egypt’s unwavering position with regard to maintaining the legal status of Jerusalem within the framework of international references and relevant U.N. resolutions.”

Arab League chief Ahmed Abul Gheit said member states had decided to meet in Cairo “given the danger of this matter, if it were to happen, and the possible negative consequences not only for the situation in Palestine but also for the Arab and Islamic region,” AFP reported.

Officials from China, IraqSaudi Arabia, the United Kingdom and other counties have also warned against the move.

U.N. Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nikolay Mladenov said Wednesday that the future of Jerusalem must be negotiated between Israel and Palestine. “We all have to be very careful with the actions we take because of the repercussions of these actions,” he said.