President Donald Trump plans to relocate the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem and declare the city Israel's capital, reversing decades of U.S. foreign policy. American allies have warned that the move could ignite tensions in the Middle East and prompt violence.
On Dec. 5, Trump informed Jordanian King Abdullah II and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas over the phone that he intended to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Trump had pledged to make the shift during his 2016 campaign.
Trump reportedly told Abbas and Abdullah that relocating the U.S. embassy would place pressure on Israel and Palestine to negotiate a peace settlement, according to The New York Times.
Meanwhile, White House officials who requested anonymity disclosed that Trump planned to officially recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital city in a press conference scheduled for Dec. 6, BBC reports.
Jerusalem contains religious sites that hold sacred value to Christianity, Islam and Judaism. In 1967, Israel began to occupy East Jerusalem following the Arab-Israeli War. More than 300,000 Palestinians currently live in the region and the Palestinian Authority has sought to make it their own capital. Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's administration has claimed ownership over East Jerusalem.
Since 1993, the U.S. has refused to weigh in on the dispute, asserting that sovereignty over Jerusalem would have to be negotiated by Israel and Palestine in a peace settlement. Since 1995, American presidents have signed waivers delaying the relocation of the U.S. embassy of every six months to maintain neutrality in the matter.
Trump administration officials disclosed that Trump would sign a waiver delaying the embassy relocation by another six months but would commit to making the move after it expires.
U.S. officials also stated that Trump would not describe Jerusalem as Israel's "undivided capital," which would imply that America would support the Netanyahu administration's claim of sovereignty over East Jerusalem at the expense of Palestine.
Arab leaders issued official statements urging Trump to reconsider his decision. Saudi Arabian King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud asserted that the dual foreign policy moves "would constitute a flagrant provocation of Muslims, all over the world."
Abdullah's royal palace issued a statement cautioning against the moves.
"King Abdullah stressed that the adoption of this resolution will have serious implications for security and stability in the Middle East, and will undermine the efforts of the American administration to resume the peace process and fuel the feelings of Muslims and Christians."
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned that he would cut diplomatic ties with Israel if Trump recognized Jerusalem as its capital and relocated the U.S. embassy. Erdogan's spokesperson said that both moves were a "red line."