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/