In a momentous shift in United States policy in the Middle East, American President Donald Trump officially recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel on Wednesday and initiated the process of relocating the U.S. Embassy to the city from Tel Aviv. Trump described it as a “long overdue step to advance the peace process.”
Trump who was joined at the White House by Vice President Mike Pence when he made the announcement said,
“My announcement today marks the beginning of a new approach to conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.
“While previous presidents have made this a major campaign promise, they failed to deliver,” he added. “Today I am delivering.”
His remarks were broad in nature — an intentional choice, according to a U.S. official and a source close to the White House who spoke to ABC News before the announcement.
Trump said Wednesday that “the U.S. would support a two-state solution if agreed to by both sides.” He said:
“Jerusalem is not just the heart of three great religions, but it is now also the heart of one of the most successful democracies in the world.
Over the past seven decades, the Israeli people have built a country where Jews, Muslims, Christians and people of all faiths are free to live and worship according to their conscience and beliefs.”
Until the new embassy in Jerusalem opens, current law requires the president to sign a waiver that keeps the embassy in Tel Aviv operable. The process of relocating the embassy is expected to take years.
Trump said the process of hiring “architects, engineers and planners” will begin “immediately.” The new embassy “will be a magnificent tribute to peace,” he added.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in a statement after Trump’s speech that “the State Department will immediately begin the process to implement” the decision to move the embassy. He added that “the safety of Americans is the State Department’s highest priority” and that the department has “implemented robust security plans.”
The approach described by the officials appears aimed at allowing Trump to fulfill a key campaign promise while attempting to reduce fallout from the decision by delaying it for an undefined time.