President Donald Trump is expected to make a key policy announcement next week on the U.S. position on the status of Jerusalem, a decision that may have dramatic repercussions for the delicate peace process between Israelis and Palestinians.
Like other presidential candidates before him, Trump repeatedly promised during his campaign to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The move would placate the Israeli government and conservative allies in the U.S., but would meet a furious response from Palestinians and would complicate the already daunting task of brokering an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord.
Trump has neglected to follow through on his promise in his first months in office, but facing a deadline next week, White House officials have signaled that the president might finally move forward with the plan. In an address last week, Vice President Mike Pence said Trump was “actively considering” how to make the change.
Jerusalem contains holy sites for Muslims, Jews and Christians, and the city’s governance has long been contested. Israel has de facto control of the city since seizing its eastern part from Jordan in 1967, but the international community has refused to recognize that authority. Both Israelis and Palestinians consider the city their capital.
The U.S. government has taken the stance that Israelis and Palestinians should determine the city’s status on their own. Maintaining the embassy in the undisputed city of Tel Aviv has ensured that the U.S. wasn’t seen to be taking a stance on Jerusalem’s final status.
While Congress passed a law in 1995 requiring the U.S. embassy to be relocated to Jerusalem, every president since has signed a national security waiver every six months to delay the move. Like Trump, former presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton made vows to move the embassy but later decided not to pursue the relocation when faced with possible political repercussions.
Trump, too, deferred the decision when the six-month deadline arrived in June. The deadline for renewal is approaching next week.
Moving the embassy could jeopardize Trump’s expressed hopes for his administration to spearhead a peace process under the stewardship of White House adviser and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner.
“We have spent a lot of time listening to and engaging with the Israelis,…