The Jerusalem Quandary: Why Trump's Proposed Embassy Move Is Problematic
The Dome of the Rock mosque, in the Jerusalem skyline.
Credit: Thomas Coex/AFP/Getty

Today (Dec. 5) President Trump declared his intent to recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital, and he is expected to announce tomorrow (Dec. 6) whether the U.S. Embassy will relocate to Jerusalem from its current location in Tel Aviv, the New York Times reported.

This is a highly controversial decision; the Israeli government claims Jerusalem as its capital, but the Palestinian National Authority (PA) considers East Jerusalem to be Palestinian territory illegally occupied by Israel since the Six Day War in 1967, and sees East Jerusalem as the capital in the future Palestinian state. In fact, the United Nations Security Council considers East Jerusalem an occupied Palestinian territory.

PA President Mahmoud Abbas told Trump in a phone call that this decision could derail the delicate peace processes underway between Israel and Palestine, and could carry "grave consequences" for the future stability of the region and for "the world at large," according to the Palestine News Agency (PNA). [The Holy Land: 7 Amazing Archaeological Finds]

Trump's announcement drew criticism from international leaders, with Jordan's King Abdullah II warning that moving the U.S. Embassy "will undermine the efforts of the American administration to resume the peace process and fuel the feelings of Muslims and Christians," the New York Times reported.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also expressed dismay at Trump's decision, threatening to sever diplomatic ties with Israel should the U.S. recognize Jerusalem as the capital, and French President Emmanuel Macron cautioned that Jerusalem's status would be best decided by Israelis and Palestinians, according to Al Jazeera.

Israel's supreme court and parliament are housed in Jerusalem, making it Israel's legislative and judicial capital, while the city of Ramallah is the current seat of the PA government. But Palestinian officials hold firm that "there will be no Palestinian state without East Jerusalem as its capital," PNA representatives said in a statement.

With many aspects of Palestinian statehood still unresolved, Jerusalem's fate remains uncertain. In deference to its thorny political status — which dates back to the 1940s — the U.S. Embassy was established in Tel Aviv.

But in 1995, the U.S. passed the Jerusalem Embassy Act to initiate and fund the relocation of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem by 1999. However, as talks between Israel and Palestinian leaders continued without resolution, the move was repeatedly postponed in the interest of preserving the peace process and U.S. security, with a presidential waiver issued every six months to explain why the move should not take place.  

President Trump signed one such waiver on June 1, claiming that he did so in order "to maximize the chances of successfully negotiating a deal between Israel and the Palestinians," the White House Office of the Press Secretary reported in a statement that day.

However, though the move may have been temporarily stayed, the White House regarded the embassy's transition from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem as not only imminent, but inevitable, according to the statement.

"The question is not if that move happens, but only when," White House representatives said.

The deadline for Trump's next waiver, which he did not sign, expired on Dec. 3, the New York Times reported.

Original article on Live Science.