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Trump to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, move embassy

The United States will recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and begin the process of moving its embassy from Tel Aviv, US President Donald Trump is to announce Wednesday in a reversal of decades of US policy.

Trump will make the announcement at 1 pm (1800 GMT), senior administration officials told reporters ahead of the announcement.

Trump told Middle East leaders of his plans on Tuesday, despite warnings from the Palestinians and Arab leaders that the decision could spark violence and instability throughout the region.

Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas, Jordanian King Abdullah and Saudi King Salman bin Abdul Aziz all advised Trump against the move in telephone conversations.

If the embassy is moved it would upend decades of US policy towards the holy city, which both Israelis and Palestinians see as their capital.

Speculation about the move had swirled as Trump faced a deadline to sign a waiver to keep the embassy in Tel Aviv in the face of a decades-old US law that requires the United States to move the embassy to Jerusalem.

However Trump will still sign the waiver because it will likely take years to construct a new embassy and move personnel to Jerusalem and the law requires a waiver until the new embassy opens, the officials said.

Trump views the move “as a recognition of reality” with Jerusalem serving as the seat of government since the foundation of modern Israel, a senior US official said.

The decision was taken in consultations across the US government, including on potential security concerns, the officials said.

However they downplayed concerns the move would derail the peace process, noting that leaving the US embassy in Tel Aviv had done little to advance the peace process.

The move also does not change the United States’ broader policy on the Middle East and talks to advance the peace process, including the view that specific borders must be part of final negotiations, the officials said.

Trump told the Palestinians of his “absolute commitment to the US facilitating a peace deal between the Israelis and Palestinians and that such a deal is within reach and can be achieved,” one official said.

Meanwhile, the US embassy in Israel has cautioned US citizens about the potential for demonstrations.

Multiple US presidents have refrained from recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, despite Israeli prodding, in an effort to remain neutral while the city’s contested borders are determined in a long-hoped-for Israeli-Palestinian peace deal.

Nearly all countries that have diplomatic relations with Israel – a group that excludes a large number of Arab and Muslim states – keep their embassies in Tel Aviv.

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