US President Donald Trump will recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and direct the state department to begin the lengthy process of moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to the city, according to senior White House officials.
The announcement, which is expected at 18:00 GMT on Wednesday, comes amid global condemnation of the move.
The officials said in a briefing that Trump’s expected announcement is a “recognition of a reality”.
The officials added that moving the embassy “will take years” and Trump will continue to sign the six-month waiver to keep the embassy in Tel Aviv until the relocation process is complete.
Leaders in the Middle East and elsewhere had warned Trump that such a move would have grave implications for the so-called peace process and on regional stability.
Trump held phone calls with the leaders of Palestine, Jordan and Egypt on Tuesday to inform them of his intention to move the embassy.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas warned Trump against “the dangerous consequences such a decision would have to the peace process and to the peace, security and stability of the region and of the world,” Nabil Abu Rudeina, Abbas’ spokesman, said in a statement after Trump’s call.
Jordan’s King Abdullah II told Trump that such a decision would have “dangerous repercussions on the stability and security of the region”, according to a statement released by the palace.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, in a statement, also cautioned Trump against “taking measures that would undermine the chances of peace in the Middle East”.
Earlier on Tuesday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened to cut diplomatic ties with Israel if Trump went through with the embassy move, calling it a “red line for Muslims”.
Jerusalem’s status is an extremely sensitive aspect of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Israel claims the city as its capital, following the occupation of East Jerusalem in the 1967 War with Syria, Egypt and Jordan, and considers Jerusalem to be a “united” city.
Palestinians have long seen East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.
They say that a US move to relocate the embassy would prejudge one of the most sensitive issues in the conflict – the status of Jerusalem – and undermine any attempt by Washington to restart the peace process.
US officials said that Trump “remains committed to achieving a lasting peace agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians and is optimistic that peace can be achieved”.
One official said that Trump’s decision “doesn’t change the status quo with respect to the holy sites and other sensitive issues”.
But Ali Abunimah of the Electronic Intifada said that one would have to have been “living on another planet for the last few decades to believe that the US was ever an honest broker”.
“What [Trump’s move] achieves is truth in advertising,” he told Al Jazeera.
“It is a more honest expression of American policy, which is to support Israel unconditionally, including Israel’s illegal colonisation and settlement-building in East Jerusalem,” he said, adding that “this has effectively been US policy for many, many years and Trump is simply coming out and being open about it”.
‘Day of Rage’
A small group of Palestinians protested in Bethlehem on Tuesday evening, burning posters with the image of Trump on them.
In a statement, Hamas called for Palestinians “to make Friday a day of rage against the occupation, rejecting moving the American embassy to Jerusalem and declaring it the capital of a Zionist entity”.
Mustafa Barghouti, a Palestinian politician in the West Bank, warned that the “Arabs and Muslims will not take this lying down”.
“The Palestinian people will react, with a public, popular, non-violent uprising,” Barghouti told Al Jazeera earlier on Tuesday. “That’s what you will see tomorrow, after tomorrow and the days after,” he added.
Hillary Mann Leverett, a former state department official, said Trump’s move might be an attempt to “generate a crisis in order to create opportunity”.
“If there was any actual hope of a peace process being launched by Jared Kushner, they wouldn’t be doing something like this that is so inflammatory and incendiary about Jerusalem,” Mann Leverett said, referring to the senior White House adviser and Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner.
“[The expected move] says to me that the process that Jared Kushner has been working on since Trump was elected is going nowhere and they’ve decided to generate crisis in order to create some opportunity,” she added.
No country currently has its embassy in Jerusalem, and the international community does not recognise Israel’s jurisdiction over and ownership of the city.
US Congress passed a law in 1995 that required the embassy be transferred to Jerusalem, but all presidents since then have repeatedly signed a six-month waiver to override implementation of the law.
White House officials on Tuesday said Trump, who pledged during the 2016 presidential campaign to move the embassy, will continue to sign the waiver until the embassy is ready to be transferred to Jerusalem in order to avoid the financial consequences of not implementing the law.