The US will immediately begin the process to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has said, after President Donald Trump recognised the holy city as Israel’s capital.
In a major announcement, Trump recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital on Wednesday despite warnings from the Arab leaders, reversing decades of US and international policy on the holy city.
“The State Department will immediately begin the process to implement this decision by starting the preparations to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem,” Tillerson said.
The President Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital aligns the US presence with the reality that Jerusalem is home to Israel’s legislature, Supreme Court, president’s office, and prime minister’s office, Tillerson said in a statement.
“We have consulted with many friends, partners, and allies in advance of the President making his decision. We firmly believe there is an opportunity for a lasting peace,” he said.
Tillerson said the the safety of Americans was the State Department’s highest priority, and with other federal agencies, it has implemented robust security plans to protect its citizens in affected regions.
In his landmark announcement, Trump said consistent with the Jerusalem Embassy Act, he was directing the State Department to begin preparation to move the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
“This will immediately begin the process of hiring architects, engineers and planners, so that a new embassy, when completed, will be a magnificent tribute to peace,” he said.
The controversial decision received mixed reactions.
“I have long believed that Jerusalem is the true capital of Israel. However, issues surrounding the final and permanent status of Jerusalem must ultimately be resolved by Israelis and Palestinians as part of an internationally supported peace process,” Senator John McCain said.
“That is why today’s policy announcement, as well as any future relocation of the US Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, should be part of a comprehensive diplomatic strategy in coordination with regional partners to achieve peace and security between Israelis and Palestinians,” he said.
Democratic Senator Tim Kaine, member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the reaction from across the world is “troubling”, including from important allies of Israel, and asserted that the announcement could have “destabilising consequences” for a region already rife with tensions.
“I am worried about the impact of this decision on the safety of US personnel overseas and have raised my concerns with the State Department to ensure sufficient security measures are in place at all US embassies and consulates,” he said.
Another Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi rued that in the absence of a negotiated settlement between Israel and the Palestinians, moving the US embassy to Jerusalem now may “needlessly spark mass protests, fuel tensions, and make it more difficult to reach a durable peace”.
Senator Marco Rubio said, “Today’s announcement is an important step in the right direction. Unequivocal recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital will be complete when the US embassy is officially relocated there”.
Following the Trump’s decision, many Arab leaders warned that it could trigger an upheaval in the already volatile Middle East.