President Trump on Wednesday formally recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, reversing nearly seven decades of American foreign policy and setting in motion a plan to move the United States Embassy from Tel Aviv to the fiercely contested Holy City.
“Today we finally acknowledge the obvious: that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital,” Mr. Trump said from the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House. “This is nothing more or less than a recognition of reality. It is also the right thing to do. It’s something that has to be done.”
The president cast his decision as a break with decades of failed policy on Jerusalem, which the United States, along with virtually every other nation in the world, has declined to recognize as the capital since Israel’s founding in 1948. That policy, he said, brought us “no closer to a lasting peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.”
“It would be folly to assume that repeating the exact same formula would now produce a different or better result,” Mr. Trump declared.
Recognizing Jerusalem, he added, was “a long overdue step to advance the peace process.”
Mr. Trump’s remarks were the most closely scrutinized of his presidency on the Middle East, where he has vowed to broker the “ultimate deal” between Israelis and Palestinians but has yet to find a breakthrough to end the conflict. He said he remained committed to brokering an agreement “that is a great deal for the Israelis and a great deal for the Palestinians.”
The president said the decision to recognize Jerusalem should not be construed as the United States taking a position on whether, or how, the city might ultimately be shared. But he offered little solace to the Palestinians, making no mention of their long-held hopes for East Jerusalem to be the capital of a Palestinian state.
Instead, Mr. Trump emphasized the domestic political dimension of the decision. He noted that he had promised to move the embassy during the 2016 presidential campaign, and added, “While previous presidents have made this a major campaign promise, they failed to deliver. Today, I am delivering.”
Though he did not mention it, Mr. Trump signed the same national security waiver signed by his predecessors, from Barack Obama to George W. Bush to Bill Clinton, which will allow the administration to keep the embassy in Tel Aviv for an additional six months. White House officials said that was unavoidable because it would take several years to move the embassy staff to a new facility in Jerusalem.
“There will of course, be disagreement and dissent regarding this announcement,” the president said. He appealed for “calm, for moderation, and for the voices of tolerance to prevail over the purveyors of hate.”
Mr. Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem isolates the United States on one of the world’s most sensitive diplomatic issues. It has drawn a storm of criticism from Arab and European leaders, which swelled on Tuesday night after the White House confirmed Mr. Trump’s plans.
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