Officials: Trump To Recognize Jerusalem As Israel’s Capital, Direct State Department To Move U.S. Embassy

Donald Trump will rec­og­nize Jerusalem as the cap­i­tal of Israel on Wednesday and direct the State Department to begin the process to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, senior admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials said.

The deci­sion, which is already being cheered by the President’s sup­port­ers and the Israeli gov­ern­ment, is expect­ed to roil the region, with U.S. Arab allies warn­ing Trump on Tuesday that it will under­mine region­al sta­bil­i­ty and stymie the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians. Trump will sign a waiv­er delay­ing the embassy move for anoth­er six months to com­ply with the law, as senior admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials said it will take years for the move to be completed.

The Trump admin­is­tra­tion on Tuesday cast the move, which Trump will announce Wednesday at 1 p.m. ET, as a “recog­ni­tion of real­i­ty” that Jerusalem has long been the seat of the Israeli gov­ern­ment. Officials stressed that the deci­sion would have no impact on the bound­aries of future Israeli and Palestinian states as nego­ti­at­ed under a final sta­tus agreement.

Senior admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials brief­ing reporters Tuesday evening reject­ed sug­ges­tions that the deci­sion would hurt the peace process, but offered no argu­ments to sug­gest the move would advance the peace process or U.S. inter­ests in the region.

Instead, the offi­cials said keep­ing the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv — despite leg­is­la­tion call­ing for a move to Jerusalem — had not advanced peace in more than two decades.

It seems clear now that the phys­i­cal loca­tion of the American embassy is not mate­r­i­al to a peace deal. It’s not an imped­i­ment to peace and it’s not a facil­i­ta­tor to peace,” one senior admin­is­tra­tion offi­cial said. “After hav­ing tried this for 22 years, an acknowl­edg­ment of real­i­ty seems like an impor­tant thing.”

Another senior admin­is­tra­tion offi­cial said Trump “came to the judg­ment that this was both the right time and the right step to take specif­i­cal­ly with respect to his hopes that a peace can be achieved,” but offered no fur­ther specifics.

The offi­cials said Trump would reaf­firm that he is pre­pared to sup­port a two-state solu­tion to the Israeli-Palestinian con­flict if both sides can agree to such a deal.

Despite the announce­ment, a senior admin­is­tra­tion offi­cial said Tuesday Trump’s recog­ni­tion of Jerusalem as Israel’s cap­i­tal would not change the US pol­i­cy oppos­ing Israeli con­struc­tion of set­tle­ments in East Jerusalem.

Ahead of his announce­ment, Trump spoke Tuesday to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Egypt’s Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Saudi Arabia’s King Salman and Jordan’s King Abdullah, prompt­ing state­ments from each leader’s coun­try oppos­ing the plan, warn­ing that it will under­mine region­al sta­bil­i­ty and scut­tle any hopes of peace for the fore­see­able future.

Palestinian lead­ers have already called for three “days of rage” in protest and the State Department issued a trav­el warn­ing about the West Bank and Jerusalem’s Old City.

Trump also spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has long lob­bied for the embassy to move to Jerusalem.

The President is expect­ed to make a pub­lic announce­ment Wednesday declar­ing his deci­sion to rec­og­nize Jerusalem as the cap­i­tal of Israel and his intent to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv, diplo­mat­ic offi­cials and a per­son famil­iar with the plans tell CNN. Trump is also expect­ed to sign a waiv­er delay­ing the embassy move for six months, cit­ing the logis­ti­cal chal­lenges of mov­ing U.S. personnel.

The move is roil­ing U.S. allies because it bucks inter­na­tion­al norms and has the poten­tial to desta­bi­lize the region. Recognizing Jerusalem as the Israeli cap­i­tal could upend efforts led by Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to revive Mideast peace talks; could spark region­al protests that might put U.S. mil­i­tary and diplo­mat­ic per­son­nel at risk; and could hand a pro­pa­gan­da weapon to mil­i­tant groups and Iran, ana­lysts say.

Reaction was swift, with Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Qatar crit­i­ciz­ing the antic­i­pat­ed deci­sion and urg­ing the admin­is­tra­tion to reconsider.

The European Union for­eign pol­i­cy chief, Federica Mogherini, used a press appear­ance with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to make EU dis­plea­sure clear. Any action that could under­mine an even­tu­al peace agree­ment between Israelis and Palestinians “must absolute­ly be avoid­ed,” Mogherini said.

On Monday, French President Emmanuel Macron stressed in a phone call with Trump the long-held inter­na­tion­al posi­tion that the sta­tus of Jerusalem should be resolved through peace nego­ti­a­tions between Israelis and Palestinians, “and par­tic­u­lar­ly those relat­ing to the estab­lish­ment of two states, Israel and Palestine, liv­ing side by side in peace and secu­ri­ty with Jerusalem as their cap­i­tal,” France’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

The admin­is­tra­tion itself braced for blow­back. State Department secu­ri­ty ser­vices were told to pre­pare for unrest at mis­sions over­seas and the Pentagon repo­si­tioned troops who usu­al­ly pro­tect embassies to be clos­er to coun­tries where protests may break out.

White House press sec­re­tary Sarah Sanders said the deci­sion was the result of a “very thought­ful inter-agency process,” but peo­ple famil­iar with the White House delib­er­a­tions por­tray it as being dri­ven by Trump’s domes­tic polit­i­cal concerns.

The President is increas­ing­ly wor­ried about los­ing his polit­i­cal base and insists that he must be seen as ful­fill­ing cam­paign promis­es on Israel, part of an effort he’s tak­en in the past few weeks to gal­va­nize con­ser­v­a­tive sup­port, accord­ing to a per­son famil­iar with the White House deliberations.

The same source also stat­ed that the President sees the Jerusalem issue as key to pla­cat­ing con­cerns among his core sup­port­ers that he’s going soft on his cam­paign positions.

Previous US pres­i­dents promised to move the embassy and then set that pledge aside due to region­al con­cerns and Jerusalem’s con­test­ed sta­tus between Israelis and Palestinians, both of whom claim the holy city as their capital.

Under the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995, the US embassy must be moved to Jerusalem or the State Department faces the penal­ty of los­ing half its appro­pri­at­ed funds for the acqui­si­tion and main­te­nance of build­ings abroad. Every six months, how­ev­er, pres­i­dents can sign a waiv­er to avoid these penal­ties on nation­al secu­ri­ty grounds.

The resis­tance from allies report­ed­ly led to some debate with­in the White House over how to bal­ance the move with the recog­ni­tion of Palestinian claims to Jerusalem, accord­ing to sources with knowl­edge of the situation.

In the mean­time, the President’s per­son­al polit­i­cal con­cerns aren’t like­ly to sway for­eign allies that could be direct­ly affect­ed by any fall­out from the decision.

I haven’t heard any­one artic­u­late a sin­gle nation­al secu­ri­ty inter­est as to why now,” said Hussein Ibish, a senior res­i­dent schol­ar at the Arab Gulf States Institute. “It hasn’t been done. Everybody knows why it hasn’t been done. It’s a bad idea and it remains a bad idea.”

And while Jerusalem func­tions as the de fac­to Israeli cap­i­tal, David Makovsky, direc­tor of the Project on the Middle East Peace Process at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said an announce­ment will kill any chances of a peace deal.

There is a his­toric jus­tice in it, in that every pres­i­dent, Democratic or Republican, speaks in the Knesset,” said Makovsky, refer­ring to the Israeli par­lia­ment. “U.S. busi­ness­men rou­tine­ly do busi­ness with Israelis in their cap­i­tal. That’s been the real­i­ty since 1949, but if you say you rec­og­nize an undi­vid­ed cap­i­tal, you’ve pre-empt­ed peace negotiations.”

Shibley Telhami, a pro­fes­sor at the University of Maryland, said an announce­ment would serve as pro­pa­gan­da fod­der for extrem­ists. “It plays into the hands of every con­ceiv­able Islamic mil­i­tant group. It plays into the hands of Iran,” Telhami said, mak­ing it hard­er for Gulf coun­tries that might share secu­ri­ty goals with Israel to open­ly coöper­ate. “It makes the sit­u­a­tion of each one of those gov­ern­ments tougher, let alone what it does to American troops sta­tioned in the region.” http://​ktla​.com/​2​0​1​7​/​1​2​/​0​5​/​t​r​u​m​p​-​t​o​-​r​e​c​o​g​n​i​z​e​-​j​e​r​u​s​a​l​e​m​-​a​s​-​i​s​r​a​e​l​s​-​c​a​p​i​t​a​l​-​d​i​r​e​c​t​-​s​t​a​t​e​-​d​e​p​a​r​t​m​e​n​t​-​t​o​-​m​o​v​e​-​u​-​s​-​e​m​b​a​s​sy/