Washington/Jerusalem: US President Donald Trump's expected decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital is meeting with a wave of disapproval - even before he formally makes the announcement.
A view of Jerusalem Old City seen from Mount of Olives
Administration officials outlined the decision in a call with reporters Tuesday night. The announcement has been signaled for days with Arab and Muslim leaders increasing their pleas that Trump not take this step.
Both Israel and the Palestinians claim the city is their capital. Israel captured the eastern portion of the city in the 1967 war and US policy — under Republican and Democratic presidents — has long held that the city's status should be decided in peace talks.
Trump's announcement, expected on Wednesday, essentially endorses the Israeli position on the city. "While President Trump recognizes that the status of Jerusalem is a highly sensitive issue, he does not think it will be resolved by ignoring the simple truth that Jerusalem is home to Israel's legislature, its Supreme Court, its Prime Minister and as such is the capital of Israel," said one senior administration official. Officials spoke on the condition they not be named.
Trump plans to stop just short of one other controversial step. He won't officially move the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. No country currently has an embassy in Jerusalem because of the city's disputed status. Officials said Trump plans to stay in step with previous Presidents in signing another six-month waiver of a congressional mandate that the embassy be moved. But that delay will probably recede to the background amid the news of the declaration of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital.
Anyway, the administration wasn't backing off the embassy move as a goal.Officials said Trump will instruct the State Department to start planning for a move in the future. "This is the initiation of the construction of an embassy," one administration official said.
Moving the embassy was one of Trump's campaign promises as he appealed to pro-Israel voters, including many American evangelicals. Trump has long promised to move the embassy; during his campaign, he said he'd make the change quickly. In June, he opted not to, signing another six-month extension, citing hopes of some kind of deal being worked out between Israel and Palestinians.
But whether the embassy is moving now or not, what could seem like a symbolic announcement about the US position on Jerusalem is risky. The Arab and Muslim countries issued warnings in the lead-up to Trump's announcement of an embassy move or change in US policy, saying they could roil Muslims around the world.
Turkey threatened to cut off ties with Israel. Palestinian officials said an embassy move would mean the end of US-brokered peace efforts between Palestinians and Israelis.