White House Confirms: Trump to Recognize Jerusalem as Israel's Capital, but Delay Embassy Move for Now

Trump to announce his recognition in a speech on Wednesday. The embassy move, meanwhile, will be delayed for 'logistical reasons,' and 'may take years'

President Donald Trump speaks about his decision to shrink the size of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante national monuments on December 4, 2017.
President Donald Trump speaks about his decision to shrink the size of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante national monuments on December 4, 2017. Evan Vucci/AP

WASHINGTON - U.S. President Donald Trump will announce his recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital on Wednesday, the White House has confirmed. While the president intends to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, he will nevertheless sign a presidential waiver delaying the move by six months for "logistical reasons," senior White House officials said in press briefing.

According to three senior administration officials, in Trump's address on Wednesday, the president will for the first time explicitly express his support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 

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The officials said that Trump's decision should be seen as recognition of an existing reality, and also of Jerusalem's Jewish history. They stressed that the president is not making judgement on the fate of Jerusalem in a future Israeli-Palestinian peace deal, and that he is committed to keeping in place the current status quo in the city's holy sites.

In addition, the senior officials said that moving the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem could "take years," and that Trump could possible sign the presidential waiver delaying that move once again in the future, in order to allow the logistical process of moving the embassy to be carried out accordingly. Trump's speech will not include a strict timeline for the process of moving the embassy. 

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With regards to the two-state solution, the officials said the decades-old diplomatic formula for ending the conflict will be mentioned in the president's speech, and that he will say he supports it as long as the two sides - the Israelis and the Palestinians - share that support. If this indeed happens, it will be the first time since Trump entered the White House that he explicitly expresses his support for the creation of a Palestinian state. 

The three senior officials said that Trump remains strongly committed to achieving a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, and that he believes such an agreement can be reached. The team working on achieving that peace agreement, led by Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, supported the Jerusalem announcement and was involved in the process of crafting it. The team believes the upcoming announcement will not mark the end of peace talks with the Palestinians, but rather that they may become more fruitful following Trump's speech. 

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By recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital, Trump will not only alter decades of American foreign policy, he will also take a step that as of today, very few countries in the world will support. Currently, no country in the world has its Israel embassy in Jerusalem. Over the last 48 hours, a string of world leaders - from French President Macron to the Kings of Jordan and Saudi Arabia - warned Trump against the "dangerous consequences" of his announcement.