WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump formally announced Wednesday that the U.S. will move its embassy in Israel from Tel-Aviv to Jerusalem, claiming that the decision will not hinder efforts to achieve peace in the region.
“This decision is not intended in any way to reflect a departure from our strong commitment to facilitate a lasting peace agreement,” Trump said during a statement at the White House. “We want an agreement that is a great deal for the Israelis and a great deal for the Palestinians.”
Trump’s decision, initially announced by the White House Tuesday evening, has drawn international criticism as a needless move that will exacerbate an already tense situation.
“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia would view the step, if taken, as a contradiction to immutable international resolutions that emphasize the rights of the Palestinian People to Jerusalem,” Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement. “Additionally, the implications of such a move will signal a fundamental change and unwarranted shift in the U.S.’s typically impartial position at a time when the world views the United States of America as an integral part of the peace process.”
The U.N. Secretary General, Antonio Gutteres, similarly warned that a unilateral move would hinder peace prospects.
“Jerusalem is a final status issue that must be resolved through direct negotiations between the two parties,” Gutteres said in a statement.
The President touted the decision as both a recognition of reality, noting that Israel’s government offices are located in Jerusalem, and the right move for both the U.S. and Israel.
“Israel is a sovereign nation with the right- like every other sovereign nation- to determine its own capital. Acknowledging this is a fact that is a necessary condition for achieving peace,” Trump said.
While Hamas called for days worth of mass protests in response to the move, Trump urged restraint.
“We call for calm, for moderation, and for the voices of tolerance to prevail over the purveyors of hate. Our children should inherit our love, not our conflicts,” Trump said.
The Pentagon has declined to say if they have shifted forces in response to the announcement, but confirmed to reporters that the military is prepared to protect against threats to U.S. diplomats and military personnel abroad.
Trump closed the speech by signing a six-month waiver to excuse the U.S. from a 1995 law ordering the immediate placement of the embassy in Jerusalem, something that every President has practiced since the legislation initially passed.
Continuing the waiver has been cast by the White House as a recognition that the embassy will take several years to be established due to security and logistical concerns.