The US is formally recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, President Donald Trump announced Wednesday brushing aside broad-based international opposition.
He is also directing the State Department to initiate the relocation of the American embassy from Tel Aviv to the contested city Jerusalem, which is claimed by Israelis and Palestinians. The move is expected to take a number of years.
“My announcement today marks the beginning of a new approach to conflict between Israel and the Palestinians”, Trump said during a public address from the Diplomatic Reception Room at the White House.
“There will of course be disagreement and dissent regarding this announcement – but we are confident that ultimately, as we work through these disagreements, we will arrive at a place of greater understanding and cooperation”, he said. “This is nothing more or less than a recognition of reality.”
Trump will sign a six-month waiver off-setting the embassy’s relocation on national security grounds in order to avoid cuts to the State Department budget during the transition period, according to an official knowledgeable on the matter.
Successive US presidents of both parties have signed the waiver since the Jerusalem Embassy Act went into law in 1995, perpetually forestalling the building’s legislated move over concerns it could spark a diplomatic crisis and be a death knell for peace talks.
“Some say they lacked courage, but they made their best judgement based on facts as they understood them at the time”, Trump said referring to past presidents who signed the waiver. “Nevertheless the record is in. After more than two decades of waivers we are no closer to a lasting peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. It would be folly to assume that repeating the exact same formula would now produce a different or better result.”
Trump called on all parties to maintain the status quo at Jerusalem‘s holy sites, including Haram al-Sharif, or the Aqsa compound.
Vice President Mike Pence will visit the region ‘in the coming days to reaffirm our commitment to work with partners throughout the Middle East to defeat radicalism that threatens the hopes and dreams of future generations’, Trump said.