Trump says Jerusalem is Israel's capital, upending U.S. policy

Trump says Jerusalem is Israel's capital, upending U.S. policy

- in US

President Donald Trump announced Wednesday that the U.S. would officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, breaking with decades of precedent, sparking an uproar among world leaders, and further jeopardizing the prospects of Middle East peace.

“I have determined that it is time to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel,” Trump said from the Diplomatic Reception Room in the White House. “I have judged this course of action to be in the best interests of the United States of America and the pursuit of peace between Israel and the Palestinians.”

“Today we finally acknowledge the obvious: That Jerusalem is Israel’s capital. This is nothing more or less than a recognition of reality. It is also the right thing to do. It’s something that has to be done,” he added.

Trump also said he was putting in motion a move of the U.S. embassy to the holy city from Tel Aviv — a process that aides have said could take several years — by “directing State Department to begin preparations” for the move.

That includes “hiring architects, engineers and planners, so that a new embassy, when completed would be a magnificent tribute to peace,” he said. The move marked a follow-through by Trump on a major campaign promise he’d made that had been closely followed by Israel and by evangelical Christians in the U.S.

After his remarks, Trump signed another six-month waiver to officially delay such a move — a document presidents have signed since 1995 as part of the Jerusalem Embassy Act. The law technically initiated the process of moving the embassy to Jerusalem, but allowed the commander-in-chief to sign a six-month waiver leaving the embassy in Tel Aviv.

Trump, however, said that decision by his three immediate predecessors left the world “no closer to a lasting peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians” and that “it would be folly to assume that repeating the exact same formula would now produce a different or better result.”

Read: Trump’s full speech on Jerusalem

Israel — whose parliament and supreme court are seated in Jerusalem — and the Palestinians both claim the city as their capital, and Trump’s decision breaks decades of precedent for the U.S. to not take sides in the dispute over Jerusalem.

Related: Trump plan to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital triggers warnings

Since the 1979 Camp David Accords, U.S. presidents have refused to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel or move the U.S. embassy. The U.S. approach has been that Jerusalem’s status should be negotiated between the Israelis and Palestinians.

The Palestinians have sought the city’s eastern sector, captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war, as the capital of a future independent state. They fear Trump’s declaration essentially imposes on them a disastrous solution for one of the core issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Image: DOnald Trump at Western Wall

President Donald Trump visits the Western Wall, the holiest site where Jews can pray, in Jerusalems Old City on May 22, 2017.