WHITE HOUSE —
President Donald Trump will most likely declare Jerusalem as the capital of Israel during a speech scheduled for next Wednesday, according to multiple news sources.
The development was first reported by the news website Axios, which cited sources with direct knowledge of the plan.
The move, which comes after months of internal deliberations, is likely to inflame tensions across the Middle East and complicate the administration's efforts to negotiate a peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians.
Waiver on embassy site
The Associated Press quoted two White House officials as saying the outlines of Trump's strategy were developed during a meeting of national security advisers that Trump attended last Monday. The officials said Trump was likely to issue a waiver on the key matter of relocating the embassy to Jerusalem.
Under a law signed by President Bill Clinton in 1995, the embassy must be relocated to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv unless the president signs a waiver every six months stating that the matter is to be decided between the Israelis and Palestinians. Every president since Clinton has signed the waiver, including Trump, who did so when it came due in June.
Robert Satloff, executive director of the Washington Center for Near East Policy, said scholars are eager to see how the Trump administration characterizes this policy shift and what actions they take to reflect the new position.
"The specifics of the president's statement do matter and will have an impact on how Palestinian leaders react to it," he said.
Satloff said one key would be whether Trump's recognition includes specific boundaries as including Israeli territory. This could provoke sentiments among Palestinians, who want the city's eastern sector as the capital of their future state, as well as some key Arab allies such as Saudi Arabia.
'Wisely,' or 'the wrong way'
"My sense is that if handled wisely and judiciously by the Trump administration, it shouldn't inflame the situation," Satloff told VOA.
"You can do this wisely without bombast and exaggeration and without intentionally inflaming the situation, or you could do it the wrong way," he said. "Israel has been in control of Jerusalem since 1948, and has had its government in Jerusalem for almost 70 years."
During last year's presidential campaign, Trump promised he would move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a move favored by many American Jews and Christian evangelicals.