WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump signed a proclamation Wednesday marking the official U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital, calling his a “new approach” to resolving the generations of strife between Israel and the Palestinians.
“Today we finally acknowledge the obvious: that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital,” Trump said. “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.”
Speaking from the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House, Trump also voiced support for a two-state solution to achieve a peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians.
He sought to stress that his decision doesn’t equate with the staking out of a U.S. position on boundaries or other “final status issues” for the ancient holy city to which both Israel and the Palestinians lay claim.
Since Israel’s creation in 1948, the United States — joined by the international community — had opted for neutrality on Jerusalem, anticipating that it could be shared in a peace deal.
Trump’s remarks, which fulfilled a campaign pledge, also ordered the State Department to begin the process of relocating the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, came despite warnings from European and Arab allies that it would spark further violence in the Middle East and diminish the chances of a peace accord.
Past presidents made the same promise during their campaigns but later reneged for fear of endangering prospects of a peace deal. Trump noted that such peace has been evasive for more than two decades.
“It would be folly to assume that repeating the exact same formula would now produce a different or better result,” he said.
He appeared to leave a door open for future talks.
“We are not taking a position of any final status issues, including the specific boundaries of the Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem or the resolution of contested borders,” he said. “Those questions are up to the parties involved.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu applauded Trump’s “courageous and just decision” and said Jerusalem has been the capital of the Jewish people for 3,000 years.
“The president’s decision is an important step towards peace — for there is no peace that doesn’t include Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel,” he said in a video address.
Netanyahu vowed no change in the status quo at Jerusalem’s most sacred sites. “Israel will always ensure freedom of worship for Jews, Christians, and Muslims alike,” he said.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas called Jerusalem “the eternal capital of the state of Palestine.”
Abbas predicted that extremists would lash out against the announcement and “wage a religious war that would harm the entire region,” according to CNN, citing a televised address.
Trump also signed a waiver that, under the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995, allows the U.S. Embassy to stay in Tel Aviv for six months, because it will take years to build and secure a facility in Jerusalem. U.S. presidents have signed the waiver every six months since the law passed.
Julian Ku, a professor at Hofstra University’s Maurice A. Deane School of Law, said Trump’s speech did not include language that dismissed dividing Israel in the future.
“We are definitely taking Israel’s side, but we may not be going to the maximalist position,” Ku said.
“The headline is: We recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel,” he said. “The detail is: Where is the border of Jerusalem?”
Vice President Mike Pence will visit the Middle East in upcoming days to meet with U.S. allies, Trump said.