The United States will officially recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and begin shifting the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to the holy city, senior officials in the Trump administration revealed on Tuesday. US President Donald Trump is likely to make a formal statement in this regard on Wednesday, reported The Associated Press.
Without revealing details, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Tuesday said the President was “pretty solid” in his decision, and added that he will make the “best decision for the United States.
Speaking on the condition of anonymity, officials said Trump decision to recognise Jerusalem is an acknowledgement of the “historical and current reality”, as opposed to being a political statement, reported AP. Israel’s Parliament, and several of its government ministries are set up in Jerusalem, rather than Tel Aviv, where many countries maintain embassies. If Trump gives the green signal, the US will be the first to shift its embassy to Jerusalem.
Trump has previously delayed announcing the controversial move, despite it being a campaign promise.
Former US presidents have repeatedly delayed taking a stance on Jerusalem since 1995, when Bill Clinton signed a law making it mandatory for the US Embassy to be shifted to Jerusalem unless the commander in chief issues a waiver citing national security grounds.
Relocating the embassy is unlikely to take place soon, and Trump is expected to continue signing the waiver for the next three to four years, according to AP. However, the news agency also reports that Trump appears to have missed the statutory deadline this time around, adding a comment from the White House that Trump was still deliberating. The implications of missing the deadline remain unclear.
Why is the move controversial?
Jerusalem, home to Christian, Muslim and Jewish holy sites, is the epicentre of the Israel-Palestine conflict. As the entire city is not officially recognised as part of Israel by the global community, Trump’s move will result in America being the first country to do so.
US’ recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital would undermine the former’s role as an impartial negotiator. It has, till now, maintained that the status of Jerusalem should be resolved through Israel-Palestinian negotiations.
In anticipation of Trump’s announcement, America’s consulate on Tuesday issued a warning for its personnel to avoid visiting Jerusalem’s Old City, the West Bank, and places with increased police or military presence.
How the Middle East has reacted
Trump’s decision is being opposed by leaders in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia’s King Salman reportedly told Trump on Tuesday that it “would harm peace negotiation process and escalate tension in the region.” He added that it would “constitute a flagrant provocation to all Muslims, all over the world.”
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Jordan’s King Abdullah II are also said to have warned Trump against moving the American Embassy as it would derail peace efforts and the security and stability in the Middle East, reported AP. Also Read: Respect ‘status quo’ of Jerusalem, says Pope in response to Donald Trump move
Ahmed Aboul-Gheit, the head of the Arab League, urged Trump to reconsider his decision, which would have “repercussions.”
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in Parliament, said the US’ recognition was a “red line,” which could lead to Turkey severing diplomatic ties with Israel.
French President Emmanuel Macron, in a phone call to Trump, reportedly told Trump that the status of Jerusalem should be determined through negotiations. According to AP, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said that any action undermining peace efforts in the region “must be absolutely avoided.”
Meanwhile, a Palestinian political faction led by the Abbas’ Fatah movement, is staging daily protest marches this week.
Pope Francis too called for the city’s status quo to be respected, saying new tension in the Middle east would inflame conflicts. Pope Francis was quoted as saying by Reuters: “I make a heartfelt appeal so that all commit themselves to respecting the status quo of the city, in conformity with the pertinent resolutions of the United Nations.”
(With inputs from The Associated Press)