A senior US official has said that there will be two components to President Trump's declaration on Jerusalem this evening: firstly a true historic recognition that Jerusalem is the capital of the State of Israel on the basis of the connection between the Jewish people and the city; and secondly recognizing the existing reality that all Israel's government offices, the Supreme Court and the Knesset are in Jerusalem and the Israeli public sees the city as the official capital of the State.
The senior Washington official said, "President Trump will instruct the State Department headed by Secretary of State Tillerson to begin working towards transferring the US embassy to Jerusalem. There is not yet any decision about the location of the embassy."
The source that spoke to journalists refused to speak about the issue of West or East Jerusalem and pointed out that the president's decision in no way influenced borders, sovereignty or the holy sites.
The source added that it would take 3-4 years to transfer the embassy and stressed that a long process is involved, requiring location of a site, planning and building that takes into account the special security regulations of the State Department. He said, "We will implement this while being careful to use up the minimum possible budget provided by US taxpayers."
In 1995, US Congress enacted the Jerusalem Embassy Act in which the US recognizes Jerusalem as Israel's capital and commits to transferring its embassy to the city. For 22 years, successive US presidents have refrained from implementing the law through a waiver signed every six months. Trump was meant to renew the waiver two days ago but decided to hold off and issue a declaration that he intends fulfilling the law.
The senior official stressed that in the coming years, President Trump will still need to sign the waiver every six months and leave the current US embassy in Tel Aviv.
"President Trump won't commit tomorrow to a timetable in his speech but will only detail the decision. The process of transferring the embassy will begin in 2018. Trump will remind the public that this was one of his major election promises and it is a process that won the support of both parties in Congress."
The senior US official mentioned that just several months ago to mark the 50 th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem, 90 senators voted for the declaration that sees Jerusalem as the eternal capital of the State of Israel.
Regarding President Trump's commitment to the peace process, the senior US official said that the Jerusalem decision won't change the president's continued support for a two state solution. The official stressed that we are simply talking about a declaration that reflects the existing situation. "The president is not relating to borders or sovereignty. There is great awareness of the complexities of the holy sites and especially the Temple Mount issue. The president will reaffirm the status quo in his speech regarding the Temple Mount."
The official said that President Trump spoke yesterday with Palestinian Authority President Abu Mazen and stressed his personal commitment to a peace treaty between Israel and the Palestinians. "The President believes that a peace agreement is achievable and the President's staff continues to work on the subject and Trump is optimistic on the chances of reaching an agreement between the sides."
The official denied reports that the US Embassy would be transferred to the building in Jerusalem that used to be the Diplomat Hotel and said that looking for a location for the new embassy would only begin in January.
The official kept repeating that the President's declaration was simply reaffirming the situation in the field and not a measure to create a new reality. He said that the President is aware of the criticism in the Arab world but nevertheless Congress decided 22 years ago that Jerusalem is Israel's capital and that it was time to stop the ambiguity.
The official said that he hoped that the Palestinians would withdraw their declarations about breaking off relations and change their perception and see the US as a fair mediator.
The President understands the Palestinians' aspirations for peace. He supports their aims. We are trying to make clear that this decision only recognizes the existing historical reality and does not change the status quo regarding the holy sites."
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on December 6, 2017
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