JERUSALEM – US President Donald Trump will announce this week his much anticipated decision on whether he will have the US recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and transfer the US Embassy there from Tel Aviv, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said on Tuesday.
Although she refused to provide details at her daily press briefing about what Trump will do, she said that he will make the announcement on Wednesday, adding that it would be the best decision for the US.
Trump spoke on Tuesday by phone with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, King Abdullah II of Jordan and Egyptian President Abdelfatah Al Sisi.
According to Sanders, Trump is “pretty solid” in his plan and thinking on the matter after a comprehensive review by various US government agencies.
When asked whether Trump had taken into account the potential street violence that could erupt in the region – particularly in Arab nations – after recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Sanders said that a series of things had been considered.
In his conversations with Abbas, Al Sisi and King Abdullah, Trump expressed to them his intention to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, according to the offices of those three Arab leaders.
Trump had promised to move the embassy to Jerusalem during the 2016 election campaign and the White House had announced in recent days that the question is not if the president would order the move but rather “when.”
A US law passed in 1995 urges Washington to move the embassy to Jerusalem, but that measure was never implemented because former Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama kept postponing a decision on the matter for another six months claiming that doing so was in the US “national interest.”
Trump did the same thing for the first time in June, but on Monday, when the deadline for issueing another postponement order expired, the White House did not send such an order to Congress and said that the president would make his decision on the matter public in the coming days.
Trump spoke with Abbas amid growing speculation that Washington is poised to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, a controversial move that would defy warnings from a host of international leaders concerned that it could hamper the Middle East peace process.
“The (Palestinian) president reaffirms our firm position that there can be no Palestinian state without East Jerusalem as its capital, in accordance with the resolutions of international law and the Arab peace initiative,” said Nabil Abu Rudeina, spokesman for the Palestinian presidency.
The spokesman pointed out that Abbas warned of the threat that moving the embassy would represent to the peace process, security and stability in the region and the world.
Abu Rudeina added that Abbas will continue his contacts with world leaders to avoid this unacceptable action.
Jerusalem sits at the heart of Israel-Palestine tensions and is claimed as a capital by both communities.
Every six months, the US president is required to sign a waiver to explain why the embassy has not been moved to Jerusalem, a scenario that would be preferred by Israel.
East Jerusalem has been occupied by Israel since the end of the Six Day War in 1967, although the United Nations does not recognize it as an Israeli territory.
Foreign embassies are currently based in the Mediterranean city of Tel Aviv.