WASHINGTON- President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital on Wednesday and announced plans to relocate the US embassy there, a move expected to inflame tensions in the region and unsettle the prospects for peace.
“I have determined that it is time to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel,” Trump said from White House’s Diplomatic Reception Room. “After more than two decades of waivers, we are no closer to a lasting peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.”
The move signaled a willingness on Trump’s part to prioritize fulfilling a campaign promise over the consensus among US allies in the region.
“Today, I am delivering,” Trump said, referencing his campaign promise.
In calls with Trump on Tuesday, Arab leaders in the region and French President Emmanuel Macron expressed deep misgivings about Trump’s move and urged him to reconsider.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Wednesday that there is still “a very good opportunity for peace to be achieved” in the Middle East, despite the decision.
“The President is very committed to the Middle East peace process,” Tillerson told reporters at a news conference from NATO headquarters in Brussels. “He has a team that he put in place almost immediately upon entering the White House.”
But critics and US allies alike have voiced concerns that Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital could jeopardize that effort by damaging US relationships in the region and potentially driving the Palestinians away from the process.
Turkey’s foreign minister, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, told reporters immediately ahead of his meeting with Tillerson that the move is “a grave mistake.”
“It would not bring any stability, peace but rather chaos and instability,” he said.
Trump’s decision, previewed Tuesday by senior administration officials, upends decades of policy from successive Republican and Democratic administrations that have said the status of Jerusalem should be left up to a final status agreement negotiated between Israelis and Palestinians. Trump will again sign a waiver to keep the US embassy in Tel Aviv for the time being as senior administration officials estimate it will take years before a new embassy can open in Jerusalem.