U.S. President Donald Trump is reportedly considering recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in an official announcement next week, a move being hailed as detrimental to Palestine, and one which could derail the already delicate peace process. Critics immediately responded by warning that such a move would likely prompt widespread Palestinian protests.
That period ends this weekend, and Trump will have to decide again whether to sign the waiver or announce that this time the embassy will move to the capital.
Trump campaigned on a promise to move the embassy, but has walked back from the pledge as president.
That law stipulates the transfer of the US embassy to Jerusalem, but also includes an amendment by which the president can extend the transfer for six months based on US "national interests", something that former presidents including Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama periodically resorted to. 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.
Within hours, however, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, "This is a premature report". Trump signed the waiver at the last deadline in June, but the White House made clear he still intended to move the embassy.
The Trump administration insisted the president hasn't made any decisions on the embassy.
Israel captured Arab East Jerusalem during the 1967 Middle East war and later annexed it, a move not recognised internationally.
As popular as this action may be among some Israelis and their right-wing American supporters, it will justifiably infuriate Palestinians, who view East Jerusalem as their future capital, and who see themselves as the guardians of Jerusalem's Muslim holy sites. Israel considers all of the city its indivisible capital. Trump's campaign season promises won him the support of powerful pro-Israel voices in the Republican Party.
Inside the Trump administration, officials said debate now centres on how to make a Jerusalem announcement without affecting Israeli-Palestinian "final status" negotiations.
Such recognition also could raise deep security concerns for US embassies and businesses across the Middle East and beyond. "We have nothing to announce". In the interim, the U.S. ambassador to Israel could work from Jerusalem instead of Tel Aviv, the current site of the U.S. Embassy.
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