US officials said to be pressuring Trump not to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital

WASHINGTON — Senior officials in Washington are pressuring US President Donald Trump not to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital or announce a move of the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem when he visits next week, CNN reported Monday.

With the president said to still be undecided on the issues, a number of long-time US officials in the Department of State, Department of Defense and the broader intelligence community have issued stern warnings to the West Wing, suggesting the decision could harm the peace process and spark unrest in the region, the report said.

CNN also reported that some of Trump’s top advisers, by contrast, are urging him to deliver his campaign pledges. Such a scenario reflects a fissure within the administration over how to proceed on the emotionally charged issue.

Trump’s visit to Israel will take place from May 22 to 23 — just before Jerusalem Day — after he stops in Saudi Arabia and before he goes on to the Vatican. He will also travel to Brussels and Sicily for NATO and G7 summits on the final leg of his trip.

Since the president’s travel plans were announced, there has been intense speculation over whether he would use the occasion to follow through on his campaign pledge to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu participate in a joint news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, February 15, 2017. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Trump seemingly backed off on his promise early in his presidency. It was reported that his conversation with King Abdullah II of Jordan at the National Prayer Breakfast in February was highly influential in his decision to put the issue on the back burner.

The White House told reporters last week that Trump had yet to decide what he would do on that front. “The president has not made a decision yet and is still reviewing that,” Principal Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said.

Shortly after Trump’s visit to the region, he will have to make a decision whether to not to waive a congressional mandate — passed in a 1995 law — to relocate the embassy, but allowing the president to exercise a six-month delay on national security grounds.

The most recent waiver, signed by former president Barack Obama, expires on June 1.

US President Donald Trump meets with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in the Oval Office of the White House on May 3, 2017. (AFP/Mandel Ngan)

President Trump has placed a high priority on trying to broker a peace accord between Israelis and Palestinians. He has already hosted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at the White House.

He will meet with each of them again next week — with Netanyahu in Jerusalem and Abbas in Bethlehem.

The CNN story was published just as Israel’s Channel 2 reported that a senior administration official rejected Netanyahu’s request to accompany Trump when he visits the Western Wall.

The official reportedly told Israeli counterparts that the Western Wall is “not your territory. It’s part of the West Bank.”

An official at the Prime Minister’s Office confirmed the report, telling the Times of Israel that Israeli officials were “shocked” by the comments and have asked the Trump administration about the incident. The administration said later that the comments were unauthorized and did not reflect the president’s position.


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