U.S. em­bassy to move


Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump on Wed­nes­day for­mally rec­og­nized Jerusalem as Israel’s cap­i­tal, de­fy­ing warn­ings from other Mid­dle East coun­tries and some U.S. al­lies in a po­lit­i­cally risky move that he in­sisted would not de­rail ef­forts to bro­ker a peace deal.

The an­nounce­ment was cel­e­brated by Israel but met with fury from Pales­tini­ans, who ac­cused him of de­stroy­ing any hope of a peace deal.

In a mid­day speech at the White House, Trump de­fended his de­ci­sion as “long over­due” recog­ni­tion of re­al­ity given that Jerusalem is the seat of Israel’s par­lia­ment, supreme court and prime min­is­ter’s of­fice. He ar­gued that an agree­ment be­tween the Is­raelis and Pales­tini­ans has re­mained elu­sive for more than two decades even as his pre­de­ces­sors de­clined to rec­og­nize the con­tested Holy City as Israel’s cap­i­tal.

“Some say they lacked courage, but they made the best judg­ment based on the facts as they un­der­stood them,” Trump said, speak­ing in the Diplo­matic Re­cep­tion Room. “Nev­er­the­less, the record is in. Af­ter more than two decades, we’re no closer to a last­ing peace agree­ment.”

Trump added that “it’s folly to as­sume that re­peat­ing the ex­act same for­mula will pro­duce a dif­fer­ent or bet­ter re­sult.”

The an­nounce­ment came a day af­ter se­nior White House aides pre­viewed Trump’s de­ci­sion, and the pres­i­dent also or­dered the State De­part­ment to be­gin plan­ning to move the U.S. Em­bassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a process that ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials said would take sev­eral years. Af­ter his re­marks, Trump signed an­other six-month waiver to main­tain the em­bassy com­pound in Tel Aviv, which se­nior aides said was meant to en­sure fund­ing was not elim­i­nated un­der a 1995 law even as plan­ning for a new em­bassy would com­mence.

Trump em­pha­sized that de­spite his de­ci­sion he re­mained com­mit­ted to help­ing bro­ker a peace agree­ment. The White House is work­ing on a peace plan to be un­veiled some­time next year.

“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 forge such an agree­ment.”

The an­nounce­ment set off a flurry of re­ac­tions in Wash­ing­ton, Europe and the Mid­dle East.

Trump spoke with Pales­tinian Pres­i­dent Mah­moud Ab­bas on Tues­day to in­form him of the de­ci­sion and Ab­bas told him his gov­ern­ment would not ac­cept it.

“These con­demned and un­ac­cept­able mea­sures are a de­lib­er­ate un­der­min­ing of all ef­forts ex­erted to achieve peace and rep­re­sent a dec­la­ra­tion of the United States’s with­drawal from un­der­tak­ing the role it has played over the past decades in spon­sor­ing the peace process,” said Ab­bas Wed­nes­day.

Ha­mas, the Pales­tinian mil­i­tant Is­lamist group, which con­trols the Gaza Strip, ac­cused Trump of “fla­grant ag­gres­sion” and called for Mus­lims across the Mid­dle East to rise up against U.S. in­ter­ests. U.S. em­bassies across the Mid­dle East bol­stered their se­cu­rity ar­range­ments Tues­day night in an­tic­i­pa­tion of po­ten­tially vi­o­lent protests.

Trump tried to pla­cate Pales­tinian anger by say­ing his de­ci­sion did not rule out the possibility of a two-state so­lu­tion, where Jerusalem would be the cap­i­tal of both Israel and an in­de­pen­dent Pales­tinian state.

In Israel, Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu hailed the pres­i­dent’s an­nounce­ment, call­ing it “a his­toric day” and stat­ing that his na­tion is “pro­foundly grate­ful for the pres­i­dent for his coura­geous and just de­ci­sion.”

Theresa May was among world lead­ers who ex­pressed con­cern about the move. “We be­lieve it is un­help­ful in terms of prospects for peace.

“The Bri­tish Em­bassy is based in Tel Aviv and we have no plans to move it,” she said.

The Pope ear­lier said he had “deep con­cern” about the sit­u­a­tion in Jerusalem and urged Trump not to move ahead.

Re­ac­tion was fierce from Tur­key. Bekir Bozdag, the deputy prime min­is­ter, warned that Trump was “plung­ing the re­gion and the world into a fire with no end in sight.” Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan, its pres­i­dent, called for a sum­mit of Mus­lim lead­ers next week in Is­tan­bul to dis­cuss the sit­u­a­tion.

In Wash­ing­ton, Trump drew bi­par­ti­san sup­port on Capi­tol Hill from Repub­li­cans and some Democrats.

In a state­ment, Sen. Marco Ru­bio, R-Fla., called the an­nounce­ment “an im­por­tant step in the right di­rec­tion” and added that “un­equiv­o­cal recog­ni­tion of Jerusalem as Israel’s cap­i­tal will be com­plete when the U.S. em­bassy is of­fi­cially re­lo­cated there.”

Rep. Eliot L. En­gel, N.Y., the top Demo­crat on the House For­eign Af­fairs Com­mit­tee, said the de­ci­sion “helps cor­rect a decades­long in­dig­nity.”

Yet House Mi­nor­ity Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said that Trump’s move was pre­ma­ture and warned of “mass protests.”

White House aides em­pha­sized that Trump’s de­ci­sion would make clear to Mid­dle East coun­tries that the pres­i­dent, who cam­paigned on prom­ises to move the em­bassy, keeps his word.


De­mon­stra­tors in Gaza burn Is­raeli and Amer­i­can flags dur­ing a protest against the de­ci­sion to rec­og­nize Jerusalem as Israel’s cap­i­tal Wed­nes­day.


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