President Trump will announce Wednesday that the United States recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and is moving the U.S. Embassy to the holy city from Tel Aviv, a process that could take “years,” senior administration officials said Tuesday. But the announcement will not, they said, have a bearing on the disputed status of the city or where it fits in with negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians on a peace deal that in theory would result in a Palestinian state.
“This does not mean this will happen tomorrow,” a senior administration official said of the embassy move in a briefing to reporters. “It’s a practical impossibility to move the embassy tomorrow. ... It will take time to find a site, address security concerns, design a new facility, fund a new facility ... and build it. So this is not an instantaneous process.” The official cited the example of the planned move of the U.S. Embassy in London from Grosvenor Square. That eight-year process is expected to be completed in early 2018. The official said the process in Israel would also take “some years” to complete.
That provides a kind of win to the Trump administration: It allows the president to tell his supporters that he is keeping his campaign promise to move the embassy. But it also leaves some convenient ambiguity. A second senior administration official said during the briefing that Trump was still “prepared to support a two-state solution … if agreed to by the two parties,” but said the president “also recognizes that specific boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem are subject to final status negotiations of such an agreement.”