Trump recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in historic move
By JORDYN PHELPS JUSTIN FISHEL ADAM KELSEY
ABC News – In a momentous shift of United States foreign policy in the Middle East, President Donald Trump officially recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel Wednesday and initiated the process of relocating the U.S. embassy to the city from Tel Aviv.
“My announcement today marks the beginning of a new approach to conflict between Israel and the Palestinians,” Trump said from the White House, where he was joined by Vice President Mike Pence. He described it as a “long overdue step to advance the peace process.”
“While previous presidents have made this a major campaign promise, they failed to deliver,” he added. “Today, I am delivering.”
Trump’s remarks were broad in nature — an intentional choice by the president, according to both a U.S. official and a source close to the White House who spoke to ABC News prior to the announcement.
Trump said Wednesday that “the U.S. would support a two-state solution if agreed to by both sides.”
“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,” the president said. “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.
The approach described by the officials appears aimed at allowing the president to fulfill a key campaign promise while also attempting to soften fallout of his decision to move the embassy by delaying it for an undefined period of time.
“While we understand how some parties might react, we are still working on our plan which is not yet ready,” a senior administration official said. “We have time to get it right and see how people feel after this news is processed over the next period of time.”
A senior official downplayed concerns about threats of violence to U.S. citizens overseas as a result of the announcement, saying that the proper precautions have been taken.
“We’re obviously concerned about the protection of U.S. citizens, U.S. officials anywhere in the world,” an official said, adding that U.S. security agencies have been involved in the decision and are prepared to provide extra security that may be necessary.
Trump addressed the possibility of unrest from the White House, calling for “calm” and “moderation” and “for the voices of tolerance to prevail over the purveyors of hate.”
“Let us rededicate ourselves to a path of mutual understanding and respect,” he said.
Pope Francis spoke out against the decision Wednesday in a previously scheduled meeting with a Palestinian delegation of religious and intellectual leaders.
“My thoughts now go to Jerusalem,” the pope said. “In this regard, I cannot keep silent about my deep concern over the situation that has arisen in recent days and, at the same time, a heartfelt appeal so that everyone would be committed to respecting the status quo of the city, in accordance with the relevant resolutions of the United Nations.”
A U.S. official said the president is optimistic about the prospects for a grand peace deal and the president’s “peace team,” led by the president’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, has already made progress.
“He’s encouraged by the progress his peace team has made so far, I know a lot of that progress isn’t visible, I think that’s one of the things –- I know he believes and I know the peace team believes –- it’s partly because that progress is not visible that they’ve been able to make so much progress,” the official said.
ABC News’ Devin Dwyer contributed to this report.