WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is set to announce Wednesday that the United States will recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and begin the yearslong process of relocating the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, a senior administration official confirmed Tuesday.
“We view this as a recognition of reality,” said the official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, saying Jerusalem has been the capital of the Jewish faith “since ancient times” and now is home to “nearly all of Israeli government.”
The decision is a reversal of decades-old U.S. policy in the long-standing struggle to broker peace between Israel and the Palestinians, who both lay claim to the holy city.
It comes despite warnings from Arab leaders and Western allies, including France and Germany, that such unilateral action will threaten regional stability and undermine peace talks.
In apparent anticipation of unrest planned by Palestinian-aligned groups, the American Consulate General in Jerusalem issued a warning Tuesday for U.S. citizens to stay away from the Old City, the West Bank and other sites.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the announcement is to come Wednesday, but she did not confirm Trump’s decision.
The senior Trump administration official said about 1,000 employees work at the embassy in Tel Aviv, and it will take years to complete the move to Jerusalem because the United States must find a site, address security concerns and design, fund and build a new facility.
The president placed calls Tuesday to Arab, Muslim and Jewish leaders, several of whom confirmed the policy change.
Jerusalem’s status is central to a two-state solution in which the Palestinians can claim East Jerusalem as their capital. The United Nations sees the historic city — with sites sacred to Christians, Muslims and Jews — as a capital to both Israel and a future Palestinian state.
Trump’s move fulfills a campaign promise.
“We will move the American embassy to the eternal capital of the Jewish people, Jerusalem,” he told the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in March 2016.
But the decision riled leaders in the Arab world.
King Abdullah II of Jordan, after his call from Trump, said the change “will undermine efforts to resume the peace process and will provoke Muslims and Christians alike,” according to his Amman offices.
Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi warned Trump against “taking measures that would undermine the chances of peace in the Middle East,” according to Reuters.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas told Trump “our fixed and solid position is that there will be no Palestinian state without East Jerusalem as its capital in accordance with the international legitimacy resolutions and the Arab Peace initiative,” Palestinian news agency WAFA reported.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his representatives did not immediately comment on his call with Trump.
Jeremy Ben-Ami of the left-leaning, pro-Israel J Street, warned against unilateral action, saying: “Israel’s capital is without question in Jerusalem, and it should be internationally recognized as such in the context of an agreed two-state solution that also establishes a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem.”
Morton A. Klein of the right-leaning, pro-Israel Zionist Organization of America earlier this week rejected the contention that the move imperils Israeli-Palestinian peace. “In point of fact, peace is today further off than it was 22 years ago,” he said.