Declaring that “old challenges require new approaches,” President Trump said Wednesday that he would break with decades of U.S. foreign policy and move the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
“I have determined that it is time to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel,” Trump said from the White House. “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.”
Seeking to minimize the diplomatic consequences of the move, which Palestinians vociferously protested, Trump also emphasized that the United States would continue to seek a peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians.
“This decision is not intended in any way to reflect a departure from our strong commitment to facilitate a lasting peace agreement,” Trump said. Longstanding issues about the boundaries of Israeli-controlled Jerusalem should remain subject to negotiations between the sides, he said.
Yet the status of Jerusalem has been a major sticking point in those negotiations: Israel sees Jerusalem as its undivided, “eternal” capital; the Palestinians also claim east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state. “Without question, Jerusalem is one of the most sensitive issues in those talks,” Trump acknowledged.
Every other country — including the United States — has established its embassy in Tel Aviv in an attempt to stay neutral on the issue. Previous presidents have said that the decision on Jerusalem’s capital must come from a negotiated agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians.
But in Congress, the idea of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital has enjoyed long bipartisan support. Congress overwhelmingly passed the Jerusalem Embassy Act in 1995 requiring the move, but allowed presidents to waive it in the interests of national security. Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama signed those waivers every six months for 22 years.