Donald Trump has announced that the United States recognises Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and that he is moving the US Embassy there from Tel Aviv, risking a furious backlash in the Middle East.
In a highly anticipated speech at the White House, Mr Trump said recognising Jerusalem as the Israeli capital was the “right thing to do”, adding that he was delivering on a promise that several former presidents had not fulfilled.
Mr Trump said he recognised that it was a sensitive issue but added it was not intended to reflect a departure from a strong US commitment to lasting peace.
It is the first time since the Israeli state’s creation that the US will recognise Jerusalem as its capital.
Mr Trump has said that the US was not taking any position on any “final status issues”, including issues around contest borders.
The move sparked warnings from Middle East and European leaders that it could derail a fledgling US-led peace effort and unleash violent protests and turmoil in the region.
Meanwhile the US State Department has warned its diplomats to avoid travel to the region amid fears of violent backlash to the decision.
Senior Trump administration officials said the US president was simply “recognising a historic and present reality”. They said moving the embassy would take years, but Mr Trump had directed the US State Department to “start the process”.
The status of Jerusalem is one of the most sensitive issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and Palestinian leaders insist there is no hope for a peace agreement unless they are able to set up their own capital in East Jerusalem. Israel claims the entire city as its “eternal and undivided capital”.
Mr Trump said his announcement marked a “new approach” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“Every previous American president has exercised the law’s waiver refusing to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital city.
“Some say they lacked courage… after two decades delaying recognition has done nothing to achieve peace.
“It would be folly to assume repeating this would make a better result.
“I have determined that it is time to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
“While previous presidents have made this a major promise they have failed to deliver.”
Mr Trump added that Jerusalem must remain a holy site for the three major religions that worship in the ancient city. The President said the US embassy would be moved to Jerusalem, saying that architects had already been tasked with designing a new building.