WASHINGTON – US President Donald Trump will order the US Embassy in Israel to move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem on Wednesday, but the process will take years to complete, anonymous officials from the White House said on Tuesday.
Trump will give a speech at 1:00 pm Wednesday (1800 GMT) to announce his decision on the status of Jerusalem, according to the White House source.
Recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel was seen by the President “a recognition of reality,” – both historical and modern – as Jerusalem has been the capital of Israel since ancient times and it has been the seat of its Government since the modern foundation of the State in 1948, the White House official said.
Another US official said at a press conference that the president “came to the judgment that this was both the right time and the right step to take specifically with respect to his hopes that peace can be achieved.”
Trump does recognize that the specific boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem will be subject to final status negotiations with the Palestinians, and will continue to support the status quo on the Temple Mount, or the Esplanade of the Mosques, located on the Palestinian side of the city, the first official said.
The United States will therefore become the world’s only nation that recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, where no embassies are located there because the United Nations called the international community to withdraw its diplomatic missions from the Holy City after Israel annexed the eastern part of the city in 1980.
Although Israel has always considered Jerusalem its capital, the sovereignty of the country over the annexed part of the city, known as East Jerusalem, is still not recognized by most of the international community, and the Palestinians also plan to establish the government of their future state there.
In the speech on Wednesday, Trump will also order the State Department to begin the process to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which will take at least “three to four years” to be completed, according to the officials.
There are roughly 1,000 US diplomatic personnel working in the embassy in Tel Aviv, and the US has no proper facilities in Jerusalem that can accommodate all of its staff, therefore it will take time to find a new location where the new embassy can be built, the source added.
The president spoke on Tuesday with five leaders of the region to discuss his decision: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President of the Palestinian National Authority Mahmoud Abbas, King Abdullah II of Jordan, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi, and King of Saudi Arabia Salman bin Abdelaziz.
The four Arab leaders expressed their concern about the US decision, which would break the consensus of the international community on the status of Jerusalem.
The White House does not believe that the decision will harm the peace process in the region, despite warnings of serious repercussions that this measure would trigger in the future.
“The physical location of the US embassy is not an impediment to peace,” the first official said.
This is “a change from the policy of ambiguity that hasn’t worked in the last 22 years,” since Congress passed a bill in 1995 to begin the transfer of its diplomatic mission to Jerusalem, he added.
The Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 requires that the US embassy be moved to Jerusalem, but the law has never been implemented because all US presidents since the Bill Clinton administration have periodically postponed its application.
Given the time it would take the US to move the embassy to Jerusalem, Trump will sign on Wednesday an order that allows him to postpone the implementation of the 1995 law for another six months.