Trump Declares Jerusalem the Capital of Israel
President Trump delivers a statement on Jerusalem from the White House on Wednesday. Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images hide caption
Updated at 2:55 p.m. ET
"I have determined that it is time to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel," President Trump said in a controversial address from the White House on Wednesday afternoon. He also directed the State Department to "begin preparation to move the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem."
Trump's announcement fulfills a campaign promise but threatens to unsettle volatile politics in the region. It's a dramatic shift from decades of American foreign policy that called for the status of the city, which is claimed as a capital city by both Israelis and Palestinians, to be decided in peace talks. The declaration also breaks with long-standing international practices; no nation has an embassy in Jerusalem.
Trump said previous U.S. presidents have "failed to deliver" on pledges to acknowledge Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. "I am delivering," he said in a speech that began shortly after 1 p.m.
"Today we finally acknowledge the obvious," he said. "This is nothing more or less than a recognition of reality."
The president says his announcement does not mean the U.S. is taking a position on any possible future peace negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians or on the "final status" of Jerusalem after such talks.
Trump later signed an official proclamation to recognize Jerusalem. That proclamation also stated that the president "is prepared to support a two-state solution to the dispute between the Israelis and Palestinians" and that the specific boundaries of Israel are subject to negotiation between the two parties.
For decades, world powers — including the U.S. — have refrained from taking sides in that dispute by locating their embassies in Tel Aviv and avoiding any reference to Jerusalem as a part of Israel.
In 1995, Congress passed a law calling for the U.S. to recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital and for the embassy to be moved to Jerusalem. But every president since then has chosen to waive that law, putting off implementation six months at a time. Trump was expected to extend that waiver, while also initiating plans to move the embassy eventually.
As The Two-Way reported yesterday :
"Moving the embassy was one of Trump's campaign promises as he appealed to pro-Israel voters, including many American evangelicals.
"The White House insists the Jerusalem policy change does not lessen the chances for reaching peace between Israelis and Palestinians. Officials said regional leaders contacted before the decision were committed to encouraging a peaceful solution. But the administration also took precautions.
"The State Department issued warnings to diplomats in the region that protests could break out in the region following a change in policy on Jerusalem."
Before the announcement was formally released, several key leaders in the Arab world warned that it would be a dangerous move that would threaten peace talks, as NPR's Scott Neuman wrote this morning .
"There will of course be disagreement and dissent regarding this announcement," Trump said Wednesday. "But we are confident that ultimately, as we work through these disagreements, we will arrive at a place of greater understanding and cooperation."
"The United States remains deeply committed to helping facilitate a peace agreement that is acceptable to both sides," Trump said. "I intend to do everything in my power to help forge such an agreement."