United States President Donald Trump on Wednesday formally recognised Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel, calling it “a long overdue step to advance the peace process”.
Israel has called the decision “historic”, even as several countries, as well as the United Nations, the European Union and the Vatican, criticised the move. Eight of the 15 current members of the UN Security Council have called for an urgent meeting by the end of the week, the BBC reported.
The US will also begin the process of moving its Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Trump’s decision breaks away from years of policy and leaves room for uncertainty in West Asia.
For decades, the US has held that the status of Jerusalem should be decided through negotiations between Israel and Palestine, which wants East Jerusalem as the Capital of the future state. A majority of countries do not recognise Israel’s claim to the whole of Jerusalem, where several Christian, Muslim and Jewish holy sites are located.
“Today, we finally acknowledge the obvious: that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital,” the US president said. “This is nothing more or less than a recognition of reality. It is also the right thing to do. It’s something that has to be done.”
Trump said he was delivering on what previous presidents had made as “a major campaign promise” but failed to fulfil. “I’ve judged this course of action to be in the best interests of the United States of America and the pursuit of peace between Israel and the Palestinians,” he said, calling Jerusalem “the heart of one of the most successful democracies in the world”.
“Jerusalem is today, and must remain, a place where Jews pray at the Western Wall, where Christians walk the Stations of the Cross, and where Muslims worship at the Al-Aqsa Mosque,” Trump said.
On Tuesday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had warned the US against formally recognising Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel. He said Turkey would cut ties with Israel if Trump made the announcement.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called the announcement “deplorable” and called Jerusalem the “eternal Capital of the state of Palestine”.
Saudi Arabia’s King Salman said on Tuesday the move “would constitute a flagrant provocation of Muslims, all over the world”.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said it was “a moment of great anxiety”, and there was “no alternative to the two-state solution” in the region.
Before the official announcement, employees of the US government were advised to avoid Jerusalem’s Old City and the West Bank until further notice. Security was stepped up at US embassies across the world in anticipation of backlash.