Donald Trump is next week likely to announce that the United States recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, a senior administration official said yesterday (December 1).
The US president could make the declaration in a speech on Wednesday but is expected to again delay his campaign promise to move the country's embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, ahead of a legislative deadline.
However, the senior official along with two other government authorities said final decisions had not yet been made and a spokesman echoed this saying the Whitehouse had "nothing to announce".
Many have been vocal about their thoughts on the change, which would see Trump deviate from his predecessors who insisted Jerusalem's status must be decided in negotiations.
Its critics say the move would inflame tensions in the Middle East, draw backlash from Palestinians, anger the broader Arab world and unravel the US administration's diplomatic efforts in the area.
On the other hand, it could help satisfy the pro-Israel, right-wing base that helped Trump win the presidency and also please the Israeli government, a close ally of his administration.
Criticism from Palestine and the Arab world
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' spokesperson said the recognition would "destroy the peace process" and "destabilize the region."
"This step would kill the possibility of a peace deal anytime soon," said Ilan Goldenberg, director of the Middle East security program at the Center for a New American Security, a Washington-based progressive think tank.
"The Arab states would be furious. The Jordanians would be worried. The Palestinians would walk away from any discussion."
Indeed, on the topic of moving the US embassy to Jerusalem, Jordan's King Abdullah warned lawmakers this could be "exploited by terrorists to stoke anger, frustration and desperation," according to Jordanian state news agency Petra.
Trump’s aides split
Some of the US president's aides are privately urging him to keep his campaign promise, according to Reuters news agency, which would satisfy a range of supporters.
Evangelical Christians would be pleased with the move, which, some say, would allow him to show his backers that he is breaking the mould compared to how past administrations have handled this area of tensions in the Middle East.
Others close to Trump have warned of the potential damage to relations with Muslim countries.
Trump a 'friend' of Israel
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu previously called Trump “a true friend of the State of Israel,” after his election victory and since then relations between the Middle Eastern country and the US have been that of close allies.
Veteran Middle East peace negotiator in multiple US administrations Aaron David Miller told The Times of Israel: “For him, this is a big deal: This is showing that: ‘I’m not Obama, I’m the most pro-Israeli president in modern history. And it’s another first. I was the first president to visit Israel so early in my term. I was the first president to pray at the Western Wall.’ …. This would be the ultimate first.”
Trump could make the anticipated speech on Wednesday (December 6).