President Trump is expected to break decades of precedent by declaring Jerusalem the capital of Israel.
President Donald Trump is likely to announce next week that the United States recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, a senior administration official said on Friday according to a Reuters report which states the move would upend decades of American policy and possibly inflame tensions in the Middle East.
Trump could make the controversial declaration in a speech on Wednesday though he is also expected to again delay his campaign promise to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv. The senior official and two other government sources said final decisions had not yet been made.
CNN report the State Department’s security arm has been told to plan for potentially violent protests at US embassies and consulates once the Trump administration announces it is moving the embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.
“We were told that this is definitely coming, and we need to be ready for it,” one official told CNN.
The Palestinians want Jerusalem as the capital of their future state, and the international community does not recognize Israel’s claim on all of the city, home to sites holy to the Jewish, Muslim and Christian religions.
The status of Jerusalem is one of the major stumbling blocks in achieving peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
Word of Trump’s planned announcement drew criticism from the Palestinian Authority and was sure to anger the broader Arab world.
Arab governments and Western allies have long urged Trump not to proceed with the embassy relocation, which would reverse long-standing U.S. policy by granting de facto U.S. recognition of Israel’s claim to all of Jerusalem as its capital– Israel captured Arab East Jerusalem during the 1967 Middle East war and later annexed it, a move not recognized internationally.
It could also unravel the U.S. administration’s fledgling diplomatic effort, led by Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, to restart long-stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace talks and enlist the support of U.S. Arab allies.
Nabil Abu Rdainah, spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital would “destroy the peace process” and “destabilize the region.”
Visiting Washington this week, Jordan’s King Abdullah warned lawmakers that moving the U.S. embassy could be “exploited by terrorists to stoke anger, frustration and desperation,” according to the Jordanian state news agency Petra.
Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s executive committee, told NY Times dispensing with that longstanding reticence would reveal the United States as “so incredibly one-sided and biased” that it “would be the total annihilation of any chances of peace, or any American role in peacemaking.”
“They’re sending a clear message to the world: We’re done,” she said.
While physically moving the embassy would require little more than putting a new sign on existing American consular offices in Jerusalem, Mr. Trump’s declaring Jerusalem the capital would carry great symbolic power, Palestinian officials said report NYT.
“If anything, it is worse, actually,” said Nasser al-Kidwa, a member of the central committee of Fatah, the dominant P.L.O. faction, and a nephew of Yasir Arafat, its onetime leader. Recognition matters, he said, “not the stones” of an embassy building.
Ahmed Yousef, an adviser to Ismail Haniya, leader of the Palestinian militant group Hamas, was similarly critical of Mr. Trump’s expected declaration. “I don’t understand why he wants to antagonize over a billion Muslims around the world,” he said.
Such a move, however, could help satisfy the pro-Israel, right-wing base that helped Trump win the presidency and also please the Israeli government, a close U.S. ally.
The senior U.S. official, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said details were still being finalized and could still change.
Another U.S. official said Trump appeared to be heading toward recognizing Israel’s claim to Jerusalem but that it was not a done deal.
“We’ve nothing to announce,” said a spokesperson with the White House National Security Council.
Some of Trump’s top aides have privately pushed for him to keep his campaign promise of moving the US embassy to Jerusalem– to satisfy a range of supporters, including evangelical Christians, while others have cautioned about the potential damage to U.S. relations with Muslim countries.
The specific way in which Mr. Trump makes his declaration, however, could mean a significantly different response on both sides of the conflict.
If he just refers to “Jerusalem” as Israel’s capital, or refers to the city’s present municipal borders, Mr. Trump would be likely to set off a strong backlash in much of the Arab world, analysts said, according to NYT.
“For Palestinians, this will be perceived as dividing the cake while negotiating over it,” said Ofer Zalzberg, a Jerusalem-based analyst at International Crisis Group.