In a move that could unleash riots and rip apart decades of American peace efforts, President Trump on Tuesday told Arab and Israeli leaders he will recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital — and relocate the U.S. embassy there from Tel Aviv.
A formal announcement of Trump’s decision is expected from the President Wednesday.
But actually relocating the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to the holy city could take years, a senior administration official said.
“It’s a practical impossibility to move the embassy tomorrow. … It will take time to find a site, address security concerns, design a new facility, fund a new facility … and build it. So this is not an instantaneous process,” the official said at a press briefing.
Trump dithers on moving Israel embassy to Jerusalem
The mere consideration of Trump changing the status quo sparked a renewed U.S. security warning on Tuesday.
America’s consulate in Jerusalem ordered U.S. personnel and their families to avoid visiting Jerusalem’s Old City or the West Bank, and it urged U.S. citizens in general to avoid places with increased police or military presence.
Palestinian leaders called for three “days of rage” in protest.
In phone calls Tuesday to key figures, Trump laid the groundwork for the change and reaffirmed his desire to advance Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
Israeli prime minister backs U.S. moving embassy to Jerusalem
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu didn’t issue a public statement on Trump’s call and told his ministers to stay silent as well, the Jerusalem Post reported.
Trump also spoke with King Abdullah of Jordan and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, the White House said.
Egypt’s Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and Saudi Arabia’s King Salman also got phone calls.
Abbas warned Trump about “the dangerous implications for such a decision on the peace process, the security and stability in the region and the world” and called the possible move “an unacceptable step,” according to a spokesman.
Kusher praised for effort to block UN vote in Flynn plea
King Abdullah “emphasized that Jerusalem is key to achieving peace and stability in the region and the world,” the palace said.
The city is revered by Jews, Christians and Muslims. Palestinians have also hoped to make the eastern section of the city a capital for their state.
Trump’s decision — which analysts say has the potential to destabilize the region and spark fierce violence — comes as his son-in-law Jared Kushner has led an effort to revive Mideast peace talks.
Kushner has forged a close relationship with the young crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, who is considered the main power behind the throne.
White House may not move U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem
The Trump administration has cast Saudi Arabia as vital to the peace process, but King Salman on Tuesday blasted Trump’s plans as a “dangerous step” and a “flagrant provocation of Muslims all over the world,” the official Saudi Press Agency said.
The U.S. has historically insisted Jerusalem’s status be resolved through Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.
European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said at a press appearance with Secretary of State Tillerson that any action that could undermine peace talks “must absolutely be avoided.”
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