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Trump to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital, defying warnings of unrest

From Reuters - December 6, 2017

WASHINGTON/JERUSALEM (Reuters) - President Donald Trump will announce on Wednesday that the United States recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and will move its embassy there, breaking with longtime U.S. policy and potentially threatening regional stability.

Despite warnings from Western and Arab allies, Trump in a 1 p.m. (1800 GMT) White House speech will direct the State Department to begin looking for a site for an embassy in Jerusalem as part of what is expected to be a years-long process of relocating diplomatic operations from Tel Aviv.

Jerusalems status has been a stumbling block in decades of on-off Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts. Israel considers the city its eternal and indivisible capital and wants all embassies to be based there. But Palestinians want the capital of an independent Palestinian state in the east of the city.

Washingtons Middle East allies have all warned against the dangerous repercussions of his decision.

Pope Francis called for Jerusalems status quo to be respected, saying new tension in the Middle East would further inflame world conflicts. China and Russia expressed concern that the plans could aggravate regional hostilities.

Trump will sign a national security waiver delaying a physical move since the United States does not have an embassy structure in Jerusalem to move into. A senior administration official said it could take three to four years to build one.

But Trumps decision, a core promise of his campaign last year, will upend decades of American policy that has seen the status of Jerusalem as part of a two-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not comment on Wednesday on the planned move. Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked said Israelis should wait and see what happens with Trumps announcement.

The Palestinians have said Trumps move would mean the kiss of death to the two-state solution.

He is declaring war in the Middle East, he is declaring war against 1.5 billion Muslims (and) hundreds of millions of Christians that are not going to accept the holy shrines to be totally under the hegemony of Israel, Manuel Hassassian, the chief Palestinian representative to Britain, told BBC radio.

Senior Trump administration officials said Trumps decision was not intended to tip the scale in Israels favor and that agreeing on the final status of Jerusalem would remain a central part of any peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians.

In defending the decision, the officials said Trump was basically reflecting a fundamental truth: that Jerusalem is the seat of the Israeli government and should be recognized as such.

The president believes this is a recognition of reality, said one official, who briefed reporters on Tuesday about the announcement. Were going forward on the basis of a truth that is undeniable. Its just a fact.

NEW ADVENTURISM

Israel captured Arab East Jerusalem in the 1967 Middle East war and later annexed it. The international community does not recognize Israeli sovereignty over the entire city, home to sites holy to the Muslim, Jewish and Christian religions.

No other country has its embassy in Jerusalem.

The political benefits for Trump of the move are unclear. The decision will thrill Republican conservatives and evangelical Christians who make up a large share of his political base.

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