President Donald Trump is expected to announce on Wednesday that the United States is recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and will eventually move its embassy there from Tel Aviv, a decision that could trigger outrage throughout much of the Middle East and threaten the administration’s efforts to strike a peace deal in the region.
The president made a round of phone calls to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Jordanian King Abdullah in which he outlined his intentions, according to readouts of the calls from foreign officials.
It is unclear precisely when Trump intends to move the U.S. embassy, but an administration official said he was expected to sign another waiver delaying the move for at least six months.
Recognizing Jerusalem as the capital would enrage much of the Muslim world, particularly if Trump says that the city should remain undivided under Israel control.
Both Israelis and Palestinians claim Jerusalem as their capital. But the U.S. and most of the rest of the world have declined to take a position on the fate of the holy city, saying it’s a topic to resolve during peace negotiations. Peace negotiators have long envisioned that Jerusalem would be divided between the two sides.
State Department officials have warned the White House and embassies worldwide that the decision could result in violence in the region.
On Monday the State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs tweeted a warning about “[w]idespread calls for demonstrations beginning Dec. 6 in Jerusalem & the West Bank,” adding that U.S. government employees and their families are “restricted from personal travel in Jerusalem’s Old City & in the West Bank.”
“U.S. citizens should avoid crowds and areas with increased police and/or military presence,” the bureau added.
In a readout of Trump’s calls to Israeli and Arab leaders, the White House said the president “reaffirmed his commitment to advancing Israeli-Palestinian peace talks and the importance of supporting those talks.” The readout added that Trump discussed “potential decisions regarding Jerusalem,” but did not mention what he’ll announce.
Though Congress passed a law in 1995 mandating that the U.S. Embassy be relocated from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, presidents have for years been signing waivers delaying the move. Trump signed a similar waiver in June amid concerns that shifting the embassy could spark political unrest and threaten peace negotiations. Trump faced a Monday deadline to sign another waiver, and it’s unclear whether he did.
White House aides said the president is determined to eventually move the embassy, noting that he had promised to do so during the presidential campaign.
But Trump administration officials said they don’t expect an immediate shift of the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The president is expected to sign a waiver delaying the move for at least six more months, even as he underscores his decision to eventually move it, according to White House officials.
Trump will make a formal announcement on Wednesday, though the president has been known to change his mind at the last minute. The exact language he uses in the announcement remains unclear and will be closely watched by Israeli and Arab leaders.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders declined to confirm the news, but said the president has made up his mind.
“The president, I would say, is pretty solid in his thinking at this point,” she told reporters.
Asked whether the administration has considered the possibility that the decision could unleash violence in the region, Sanders said, “A number of things have been looked at that have been weighed into the decision.”
The issue has sparked fierce internal debate, with Trump’s advisers warning that the move could threaten prospects for a peace deal.
Abbas warned Trump of the “grave consequences” of moving the embassy, reiterating his stance that such a decision would result in “detrimental consequences on the peace process and the prospects for the internationally endorsed two-state solution.” The
Palestinians want Jerusalem’s eastern sector as a future capital.
During a call with Jordan’s king, Trump “indicated his desire” to move the embassy, according to a statement from the Jordanian government.
“The King affirmed that the decision will have serious implications that will undermine efforts to resume the peace process and will provoke Muslims and Christians alike,” the statement said.
Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs also expressed “deep concerns” about the possible move in a statement.
Louis Nelson contributed to this report.
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