In a move that derails almost seven decades of American foreign policy and any efforts to broker peace between Israel and the Palestinians, President Donald Trump plans to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move the American Embassy there.
During his campaign, President Trump appealed to evangelicals and conservative pro-Israel American Jews by vowing to move the embassy. In an administration facing heavy criticism for failed campaign promises, Trump is determined to keep this one despite the advice of diplomatic experts and other world leaders.
Trump plans to sign a national security waiver to keep the embassy in Tel Aviv for an additional six months. Officials say the process will take several years.
More significantly, Trump will announce his formal recognition of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital in a formal speech at the White House. He will become the first American president to take that step since the founding of Israel in 1948.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Trump told him of his intentions to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital. Abbas said he warned the president there would be grave consequences, and possible violence, if he did.
No other country has its embassy in Jerusalem. Some of the United States' most vital allies expressed serious concerns that unilaterally recognizing the holy city as Israel's capital will have dire consequences. They fear Trump doesn't understand the impact of his decision, both in violence in the region and for any chance of a diplomatic settlement to the decades-old Middle East crisis.
While officials in the Trump administration said that this move could jump-start peace, Hanan Ashrawi, who sits on the Palestine Liberation Organization's executive committee grimaced and said they would instead "scuttle peace."
When you look at a place that is on the verge of an explosion, you do not introduce a flame."
Pope Francis, speaking hours before Trump’s expected announcement on Jerusalem, called for the city’s “status quo” to be respected, saying new tension in the Middle East would further inflame world conflicts.
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.”
Francis called for all to honor United Nations resolutions on the city, which is sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims.
The Vatican backs a two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, with both sides agreeing on the status of Jerusalem as part of the peace process. All prior American presidents did as well.
Leaders from within the Muslim world and from the wider international community also criticized the move and warned of violence and bloodshed as a result.
"We have always regarded Jerusalem as a final-status issue that must be resolved through direct negotiations between the two parties based on relevant Security Council resolutions," UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters.
"We view the reports that we have heard with concern," UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said, "because we think that Jerusalem obviously should be part of the final settlement between the Israelis and the Palestinians, a negotiated settlement."
The status of Jerusalem lies at the heart of the long-running Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.