US to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, shift embassy

Washington: In a historic step, the US will recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and begin the long process of moving its embassy from Tel Aviv to the holy city.

US President Donald Trump will make the announcement at 1 pm (1800 GMT) on Wednesday, senior administration said.
If Trump makes the declaration,  the US will the first country to do so since the formation of Israel in 1948.

The move comes amid warnings from Palestinians and Arab leaders of a dangerous backlash and instability in the region.

On Tuesday, Trump called them individually to` inform them about his plan to shift the embassy to Jerusalem which both Israelis and Palestinians regard as their capital.

Trump faces a deadline to sign a waiver to keep the embassy in Tel Aviv although a law requires the US to move it to Jerusalem. He may still sign the waiver to avoid penalty. Moreover, it may take years to construct a new embassy and move personnel to Jerusalem.

US officials downplayed warnings from Arab leaders saying the decision has been taken after considering security issues. Moreover, keeping the US embassy in Tel Aviv hardly helped in advancing the peace process between Palestinians and Israelis, they said.

The embassy move does not change US policy on the Middle East and talks to advance the peace process, they said.

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz described the US move as a dangerous step that would offend Muslims all over the world. Any declaration on Jerusalem before a final settlement would harm the ongoing Palestinian-Israeli peace talks and increase tension in the region, he said.

Responding to the US move, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas warned of “dangerous consequences”. Jordan’s King Abdullah said the decision would provoke Muslims. Egypt’s President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi urged Trump “not to complicate the situation in the region”.

Meanwhile, the US embassy in Israel has cautioned American citizens about violent protests which may erupt after Trump makes his important announcement.