Democrats are furious about President Donald Trump’s plan to declare Jerusalem as Israel’s capital next week — because it forces them to side politically with radical Islamic terrorists.
Trump is expected to officially recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, officials say, a highly charged declaration that risks inflaming tensions across the Middle East, especially among terrorists groups like ISIS and Al-Qaeda.
Trump’s announcement is expected next week and follows months of internal deliberations that grew particularly intense in recent days, officials said Thursday. They described the president as intent on fulfilling his pledge to move the embassy but also mindful that doing so could set back his aim of forging a long-elusive peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, who claim part of Jerusalem as the capital of an eventual state.
The officials said the outlines of Trump’s plan emerged from a meeting of his top national security advisers at the White House on Monday. Trump himself was expected to drop by the meeting for 15 or 20 minutes. He ended up staying for at least an hour.
The White House also is considering a possible presidential speech or statement on Jerusalem by Wednesday, according to the officials and an outside administration adviser. Another possibility involves Vice President Mike Pence, who is set to travel to Israel in mid-December, making the Jerusalem announcement during his trip, one official said. Pence said Tuesday that Trump is “actively considering when and how” to move the embassy.
The Trump administration insisted the president hasn’t made any decisions on the embassy.
White House spokesman Sarah Sanders on Wednesday called an earlier report saying Trump would order an embassy move as “premature.”
“No decision on this matter has been made yet,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Thursday.
Trump’s campaign season promises won him the support of powerful pro-Israel voices in the Republican Party. But as president, he has faced equally forceful lobbying from close U.S. allies such as King Abdullah II of Jordan, who have impressed on him the dangers in abandoning America’s carefully balanced position on the holy city.
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Under U.S. law signed by President Bill Clinton in 1995, the U.S. must relocate its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem unless the president waives the requirement on national security grounds, something required every six months. If the waiver isn’t signed and the embassy doesn’t move, the State Department would lose half its funding for its facilities and their security around the world.
Republicans have championed embassy security since Hillary Clinton allowed the 2012 attack on American compounds in Benghazi.
All presidents since Clinton have issued the waiver, saying Jerusalem’s status is a matter for Israelis and Palestinians to negotiate. Trump signed the waiver at the last deadline in June, but the White House made clear he still intended to move the embassy.
Trump’s approach appears to thread a fine needle, much like he did with the Iran nuclear deal. Trump in October decertified the agreement as no longer serving America’s national interests. But he didn’t announce new sanctions or take any other step to immediately revoke the accord.
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Any change in U.S. position is delicate.
The State Department recently advised American diplomatic posts in predominantly Muslim nations that an announcement about the embassy and Jerusalem’s status is possible next week, and advised them to be vigilant about possible protests, officials said.
Inside the Trump administration, officials said debate now centers on how to make a Jerusalem announcement without affecting Israeli-Palestinian “final status” negotiations. One option under consideration is to include in any such statement a nod to Palestinian aspirations for their capital to be in east Jerusalem.
The Associated Press contributed to this article