President Donald Trump made a statement recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s official capital on Wednesday afternoon but he is not moving the embassy yet.
Trump will direct the State Department to start work on a multi-year process to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. On the 2016 campaign trail, Trump took a strong pro-Israel stance and promised to move the embassy. The law is currently structured so that the president must sign a waiver every six months to leave the embassy in Tel Aviv. This week, Mr. Trump's second opportunity to sign one of these waivers passed without the president's signature.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Thank you. When I came into office, I promised to look at the world's challenges, with open eyes and very fresh thinking. We cannot solve our problems by making the same failed assumptions and repeating the same failed strategies of the past.
All challenges demand new approaches. My announcement today marks the beginning of a new approach to conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.
In 1995, Congress adopted the Jerusalem Embassy Act, urging the federal government to relocate the American embassy to Jerusalem, and to recognize that that city, and so importantly is Israel's capital. This act passed Congress by an overwhelming bipartisan majority, and was reaffirmed by unanimous vote of the Senate, only six months ago.
Yet for over 20 years, every previous American president has exercised the law's waiver, refusing to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, or to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital city. Presidents issued these waivers under the belief that delaying the recognition of Jerusalem would advance the cause of peace. Some say they lacked courage, but they made their best judgments based on facts as they understood them at the time.
Nevertheless, the record is in. After more than two decades of waivers, we are no closer to a lasting peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. It would be folly to assume that repeating the exact same formula would now produce a different or better result.
Therefore, I have determined that it is time to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. While previous presidents have made this a major campaign promise, they failed to deliver. Today, I am delivering.
I've judged this course of action to be in the best interests of the United States of America and the pursuit of peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
This is a long overdue step to advance the peace process and to work towards a lasting agreement. Israel is a sovereign nation with the right, like every other sovereign nation, to determine its own capital. Acknowledging this as a fact is a necessary condition for achieving peace.
It was 70 years ago that the United States under President Truman recognized the state of Israel. Ever since then, Israel has made its capital in the city of Jerusalem, the capital the Jewish people established in ancient times.
Today, Jerusalem is the seat of the modern Israeli government. It is the home of the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, as well as the Israeli Supreme Court. It is the location of the official residence of the prime minister and the president. It is the headquarters of many government ministries.
For decades visiting American presidents, secretaries of state, and military leaders have met their Israeli counterparts in Jerusalem, as I did on my trip to Israel earlier this year.
Jerusalem is not just the heart of three great religions, but it is now also the heart of one of the most successful democracies in the world. Over the past seven decades, the Israeli people have built a country where Jews, Muslims, and Christians, and people of all faiths, are free to live and worship according to their conscience and according to their beliefs.
Jerusalem, is today, and must remain, a place where Jews pray at the Western Wall, where Christians walk the stations of the cross, and where Muslims worship at Al-Aqsa mosque. However, through all of these years, presidents representing the United States have declined to officially recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital.
In fact, we have declined to acknowledge any Israeli capital at all, but today we finally acknowledge the obvious, that Jerusalem is Israel's capital. This is nothing more or less than a recognition of reality. It is also the right thing to do. It's something that has to be done. That is why, consistent with the Jerusalem Embassy Act, I am also directing the State Department to begin preparation to move the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. This will immediately begin the process of hiring architects, engineers and planners, so that a new embassy, when completed, will be a magnificent tribute to peace.
In making these announcements, I also want to make one point very clear. This decision is not intended, in any way, to reflect a departure from our strong commitment to facilitate a lasting peace agreement. We want an agreement that is a great deal for the Israelis, and a great deal for the Palestinians.
We are not taking a position of any final status issues, including the specific boundaries of the Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem, or the resolution of contested borders. Those questions are up to the parties involved. The United States remains deeply committed to helping facilitate a peace agreement that is acceptable to both sides. I intend to do everything in my power to help forge such an agreement.
Without question, Jerusalem is one of the most sensitive issues in those talks. The United States would support a two-state solution, if agreed to by both sides. In the meantime, I call on all parties to maintain the status quo at Jerusalem's holy sites, including the Temple Mount, also known as Haram al-Sharif.