Donald Trump may recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital
The highly charged declaration risks inflaming tensions across the Middle East.
US President Donald Trump is reportedly considering recognising Jerusalem as Israel's capital, a highly charged declaration that risks inflaming tensions across the Middle East.
The announcement would be a way to offset a likely decision delaying his campaign promise to move the US Embassy to the holy city from Tel Aviv.
Mr Trump's announcement is expected next week and follows months of internal deliberations that grew particularly intense in recent days, according to officials familiar with the talks.
The officials described the president as intent on fulfilling his pledge to move the embassy but also mindful that doing so could set back his aim of forging a long-elusive peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, who claim part of Jerusalem as the capital of an eventual state.
The officials, who weren't authorised to publicly discuss the matter and spoke on condition of anonymity, said the outlines of Mr Trump's plan emerged from a meeting of his top national security advisers at the White House on Monday.
The president himself was expected to drop by the meeting for 15 or 20 minutes. He ended up staying for at least an hour and grew increasingly animated during the session, according to two officials briefed on what happened.
The White House also is considering a possible presidential speech or statement on Jerusalem by Wednesday, according to the officials and an outside administration adviser.
Another possibility involves Vice President Mike Pence, who is set to travel to Israel in mid-December, making the Jerusalem announcement during his trip, one official said.
Earlier this week Mr Pence said Mr Trump is "actively considering when and how" to move the embassy, although the administration insisted the president had not made any decisions on the embassy.
"No decision on this matter has been made yet," State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said.
Moving the embassy is a step that could spark widespread protest across the Middle East and undermine an Arab-Israeli peace push led by president's son-in-law, Jared Kushner.
Mr Trump's campaign season promises won him the support of powerful pro-Israel voices in the Republican Party.
But as president, he has faced equally forceful lobbying from close US allies such as King Abdullah II of Jordan, who have impressed on him the dangers in abandoning America's carefully balanced position on the holy city.
Under US law signed by President Bill Clinton in 1996, the US must relocate its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem unless the president waives the requirement on national security grounds, something required every six months.
If the waiver is not signed and the embassy does not move, the State Department would lose half its funding for its facilities and their security around the world.
Republicans have championed embassy security since a 2012 attack on American compounds in Benghazi, Libya, that killed the US Ambassador J Christoper Stevens.
All presidents since Mr Clinton have issued the waiver, saying Jerusalem's status is a matter for Israelis and Palestinians to negotiate.
Mr Trump signed the waiver at the last deadline in June, but the White House made clear he still intended to move the embassy.
At Monday's White House meeting, Defence Secretary James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made the case that moving the embassy in Israel would pose a grave danger to American diplomats and troops stationed in the Middle East and Muslim nations, the US officials said.
Inside the Trump administration, officials said debate now centres on how to make a Jerusalem announcement without affecting Israeli-Palestinian "final status" negotiations.
One option under consideration is to include in any such statement a nod to Palestinian aspirations for their capital to be in east Jerusalem.
The US also faces legal constraints - recognising Jerusalem as Israel's capital without a peace deal could run afoul of UN Security Council resolutions that don't recognise Israeli sovereignty over the city.
Washington has a veto on the council and could block any effort to declare the US in violation, but any such vote risks being an embarrassment and driving a wedge between the United States and many of its closest allies.