Global concern mounted today ahead of an announcement by US President Donald Trump to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, with Pope Francis joining a list of leaders warning of the potential for dangerous fallout.
The move by Trump, set to come in a speech later today, would upend decades of careful US policy and ignore dire warnings of a historic misstep that could trigger a surge of violence in the Middle East.
A senior administration official said Trump would make the announcement at 1:00pm (1800 GMT) from the White House. “He will say that the United States government recognises that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel,” a senior administration official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“He views this as a recognition of reality, both historic reality and modern reality.” Plunging further into a decades-long dispute over a city considered holy by Jews, Muslims and Christians, Trump will also order planning to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
“It will take some time to find a site, to address security concerns, design a new facility, fund a new facility and build it,” the official said. “It will be a matter of some years, it won’t be months, it’s going to take time.”
The status of Jerusalem is a critical issue in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with both sides claiming the city as their capital. In a frantic series of calls, the leaders of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, the European Union, France, Germany and Turkey all warned Trump against the move.
Anticipating protests, US government officials and their families have been ordered to avoid Jerusalem’s Old City and the West Bank. Further warnings from world leaders came on Wednesday.
“I cannot silence my deep concern over the situation that has emerged in recent days,” Pope Francis said. “Jerusalem is a unique city, sacred for Jews, Christians and Muslims,” he said, a day after speaking by phone with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas. —AFP