President Donald Trump on Wednesday announced plans to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and declared Jerusalem the capital of Israel, describing the move as a “recognition of reality.”
Trump broke with decades of precedent in his announcement, declaring that “old challenges demand new approaches” and hailing the recognition of Jerusalem as a “necessary condition” for peace in the region.
“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,” Trump said. “But today we finally acknowledge the obvious.”
The president stressed that the administration maintains its commitment to a peace agreement.
“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,” he said. “Those questions are up to the parties involved.”
Administration officials told reporters Tuesday the decision would not “change the status quo with respect to the holy sites.”
The embassy move could take several years, officials cautioned on Tuesday, considering the logistical difficulties of moving personnel, finding a site in Jerusalem, and ensuring the facility is secure. As such, Trump is expected to sign another six-month waiver and avoid State Department funding cuts.
The waiver decision is linked to the nature of a 1995 law that calls for the U.S. Embassy in Israel to be established in Jerusalem, but allows the president to issue a waiver every six months and delay opening that embassy for national security reasons.
However, if the embassy in Jerusalem is not “officially opened” and the president does not issue a waiver, the State Department would face steep funding cuts related to its embassies and consulates. Officials said Tuesday that issuing the waiver this time around will allow the administration to avoid funding cuts while setting its embassy plan in motion.
Trump on Wednesday decried past presidents’ consistent “refus[al]” to recognize Jerusalem or move the embassy as a strategy that has been tried and has failed.
“Presidents issued these waivers under the belief that delaying a recognition of Jerusalem would advance the cause of peace,” Trump said Wednesday. “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,” he continued. “It would be folly to assume that repeating the exact same formula would now produce a different or better result.”
The 1995 legislation also dictates that Jerusalem should “remain an undivided city” and “be recognized as the capital of the State of Israel.”
Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked Trump for the announcement Wednesday, writing in a tweet that “the Jewish people and the Jewish state will be forever grateful.”
The anticipated declaration saw pushback from foreign officials, who warned that it could trigger violence and stunt potential peace negotiations. Hamas also called for a “day of rage” on Friday in protest of Trump’s embassy and capital declarations.
Trump on Wednesday urged calm and moderation in anticipation of the “disagreement and dissent” related to the announcement.
The expected announcement received bipartisan support on Capitol Hill, with Minority Leader Chuck Schumer urging Trump to use the term “undivided” in his remarks Wednesday. Still, Democrats were at odds on the announcement, with some warning that it could dent the odds for peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians.
This post originally appeared on Weekly Standard