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When Trump talks about Jerusalem, this is what he should look for

President Trump is expected to deliver a speech on Dec. 6 announcing a plan to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and relocate the Tel Aviv embassy, ​​despite warnings from Arab leaders. (Sarah Parnass / The Washington Post)

President Trump is expected to make a big announcement about Jerusalem on Wednesday, investing years of US foreign policy. UU With an action that will please the Israeli government, but that will deeply anger the Arab states and others that sympathize with the Palestinian cause.

The Palestinian, Jordanian and Egyptian governments have said that Trump informed them that he intended to move the US embassy. UU in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, something that he undertook to do during the election campaign.

However, senior White House advisers suggested on Tuesday night that Trump finally made a separate decision: not to immediately move the embassy but to declare that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel.

Both positions carry subtly different implications. However, anyone will cause controversy, since the state of Jerusalem has long been one of the most difficult aspects of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Israeli riot police take positions in July next to the Dome of the Rock in the Old City of Jerusalem. (Fayiz Abu Rmeleh / European Pressphoto Agency / Rex / Shutterstock)

What does it mean if Trump announces that the United States will move the United States Embassy to Jerusalem?

The 86 countries that have embassies in Israel locate them inside Tel Aviv. A smaller number, including the United States, operates consulates in Jerusalem. These consulates in Jerusalem are usually diplomatic missions to the Palestinian Authority and the city itself.

Israel describes Jerusalem as its undivided and eternal capital. The city has a complicated history, with the Jews who inhabited it during Biblical times later expelled in large part since the city was under Muslim rule during the Ottoman Empire. During the 20th century, the city changed hands several times before Israel captured the eastern part of the city from Jordan after the 1967 war.

Today, West Jerusalem is largely Israeli, while East Jerusalem is largely Arab; The Palestinians see the city as the capital of a future Palestinian state. Several countries used to have their embassies in the city, but gradually these embassies began to move after Israel passed a law declaring Jerusalem as the united capital in 1980. The last countries to move their embassies were Costa Rica and El Salvador in 2006

The United States never had its embassy in Jerusalem. However, in 1995, Congress passed a law that requires it to be established there. All presidents since Bill Clinton have signed an exemption twice a year that cites national security concerns. Trump issued a similar exemption in June, but missed a Monday deadline for such an exemption this week.

There is a large plot of land in western Jerusalem, in Israel, where a new embassy could be built. This land is within the 1967 borders, and the United States pays $ 1 per year to Israel for a 99-year lease on the site. In reality, however, it may not be necessary to build a new embassy: the US government. UU He could simply redesign the consulate in Jerusalem and designate it an embassy, ​​according to some experts .

But what does it mean if Trump declares that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel but does not move the embassy?

Whether Trump says it or not, for many moving the embassy would be an implicit recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. However, the White House said on Tuesday that the administration is likely to consider another option: to leave the embassy in Tel Aviv but to issue a formal declaration that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel.

In a way, this could be a less controversial choice. The United States, like many other countries, has long recognized that Israelis consider Jerusalem their capital. A small number of countries have officially declared that the city is the capital of Israel: in June, the island nation of Vanuatu recognized Jerusalem as the capital, the Israeli press reported, while Russia declared in April that it would recognize the West Jerusalem. as the capital of Israel.

There is no technical requirement to have an embassy in a capital city, and given the relative proximity of Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and the presence of the Jerusalem consulate, the practical implications would not be drastic. , either. However, some diplomats complain that the facilities in Tel Aviv are outdated and need to be renovated, a move that would cause controversy in Israel if an embassy were not built in Jerusalem.

Keeping the embassy in Tel Aviv but recognizing Jerusalem as the capital could anger many right-wingers in Israel. Nor is it likely to reassure the Palestinians. "The embassy is not important," wrote Ilan Goldenberg, a former Obama administration official and director of the Middle East Security Program at the Center for a New American Security on Twitter . "The recognition of Jerusalem as capital is what matters to the Arab world"

But the most important will be the language that Trump will use in his announcement that will be crucial. If he repeats the Israeli line that Jerusalem is the "undivided" capital of Israel, Trump will run the risk of annoying the Palestinians who will see it as proof that the United States does not support its impulse to statehood. If he says that West Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, as Russia did earlier this year, it can anger the right-wing Israelis.

Can Trump do both?

The Trump administration does not see this as a "one or the other" situation: it says it intends to proclaim Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move the embassy.

However, the last part of that plan may take some time. Trump is likely to sign another six-month exemption, White House aides said on Tuesday, reflecting the time needed to move the embassy. It may take three or four years, their advisers said, although other major moves at the embassy have taken much longer: the plan to move the US Embassy. UU In London it has taken at least nine years, for example.

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