Donald Trump is expected to announce later today that the United States recognises Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and that he is moving the US Embassy there from Tel Aviv. The move threatens to cause widespread backlash and potentially destroy efforts to broker peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
His decision is said to be driven by a campaign promise made in 2016, when he appealed to evangelicals and pro-Israel American Jews by promising to move the embassy.
According to The Telegraph, Senior Trump administration officials said the US president was simply “recognising a historic and present reality”. They said moving the embassy would take years, but Mr Trump had directed the US State Department to “start the process”.
Trump’s potential formal recognition of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital will make him the first American president to take that step since the founding of Israel in 1948.
The status of Jerusalem is one of most sensitive issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. West Jerusalem is the seat of Israel’s government, but the Palestinians view East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state. Palestinian leaders insist there is no hope for a peace agreement unless they are able to set up their own capital in East Jerusalem whilst Israel claims the entire city as its “eternal and undivided capital”.
Late on Tuesday, Palestinian national and Islamic groups issued a joint statement calling for “three days of rage” to protest Trump’s move, beginning on Wednesday throughout the Palestinian territories. Israeli security forces are said to be bracing for unrest in Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank whilst, US embassies throughout the Muslim world have also been warned to prepare for protests.
Leaders and diplomats from Egypt, Iraq, Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the Arab League have issued their own urgent late appeals in the hope of persuading Trump not to go ahead with his decision.