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Trump expected to declare Jerusalem capital of Israel

December 05, 2017 - 5:26 pm
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(WASHINGTON) -- In what would be a momentous shift of United States foreign policy in the Middle East, President Donald Trump is expected to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel on Wednesday and initiate the process of relocating the U.S. embassy to the city from Tel Aviv, two U.S. officials and a source close to the White House confirmed to ABC News.

Official U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as the capital is expected to be intentionally broad and not meant to preclude the possibility that the Palestinians could claim part of the historic city as a capital of a future Palestinian state, the sources said. The president does not want to "prejudice" the outcome of any future peace negotiations for a two-state solution, one source familiar with the plan told ABC News.

As soon as Wednesday the president is also expected to sign a six-month waiver of a 1995 law mandating an embassy move, thereby keeping the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv. Meanwhile, the sources said he plans to initiate the process of relocating the embassy, which will include a survey of construction sites and a search for contractors.

Trump is not expected to lay out a firm timeline for the completion of a new embassy.

The approach described by the officials appears aimed at allowing the president to fulfill a key campaign promise, while also attempting to soften fallout of his decision to move the embassy by delaying it for an undefined period of time.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders declined to comment on-the-record, but signaled at Tuesday's press briefing that the president is decided in his thinking on the matter.

"The president, I would say, is pretty solid in his thinking at this point," Sanders said.

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