US president insists highly controversial move, denounced around the world, will not derail Middle East peace effort
Donald Trump has defied overwhelming global opposition by recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, but insisted that the highly controversial move would not derail his own administrations bid to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
In a short speech delivered at the White House, Trump directed the state department to start making arrangements to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem a process that officials say will take at least three years.
I have determined that it is time to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, Trump said. While previous presidents have made this a major campaign promise, they failed to deliver. Today, I am delivering.
Trump said: My announcement today marks the beginning of a new approach to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.
The presidents announcement provoked condemnation from US allies, and a furious reaction from Palestinian leaders and the Muslim world. Within minutes of Trumps announcement, US embassies in Turkey, Jordan, Germany and Britain issued security alerts urging Americans to exercise caution.
The United Nations Security Council is likely to meet on Friday to discuss the move, after a request by eight countries on the 15-member body, including the UK, Italy and France.
Trump stressed that he was not stipulating how much of Jerusalem should be considered Israels capital. Palestinians see East Jerusalem as the capital of their own future state, and Trump did not rule out a future division of the city.
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 president said.
But the move marks a break with years of US precedent and with general global opinion, which sees the fate of Jerusalem as a matter for comprehensive final status negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.
British prime minister Theresa May said Trumps announcement was unhelpful in terms of prospects for peace in the region, and said the UK did not intend to follow suit. The French president, Emmanuel Macron, and the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, also condemned the move.
Israels government rushed to congratulate Trump for the speech, which the prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, described as an important step toward peace.
But the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, said that the US had effectively abdicated its role as a mediator in the region. The chief Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat, said: President Trump just destroyed any policy of a two-state solution.
Saudi Arabia on Thursday criticised the decision, calling the move unjustified and irresponsible. The move was also condemned by Turkey, Jordan, Egypt and Lebanon.
In a social club in the heart of Jerusalems Shuafat refugee camp, young Palestinian men grew increasingly angry as they watched the speech translated into Arabic on a Palestinian television channel.
This is shit! shouted a man called Abu Atya. Hes just said Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. This speech is going to cause big trouble.
Another man, Hamdi Dyab, grew incredulous and agitated as he watched the speech.
Hes saying hes going to move the embassy, he said. This is very dangerous speech. Things dont look good. We are calling for a new intifada.