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President Trump Announces The U.S. Will Recognize Jerusalem As The Capital Of Israel


There have been protests in Gaza today and criticism and concern from many world leaders since President Trump formally recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The city is claimed by both Israel and the Palestinians. In a few minutes, we'll hear from the Palestinian envoy to the U.S. - first the view from the White House. NPR's Tamara Keith reports that acting in the face of international criticism is part of how President Trump sees his job.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Every six months for the last 22 years, American presidents have signed a waiver postponing the implementation of the Jerusalem Embassy Act. That law requires the U.S. to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move its embassy to the city. But presidents kept signing the waiver, saying in essence that it was in America's national security interest to keep the embassy where it is.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: After more than two decades of waivers, we are no closer to a lasting peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.

KEITH: And so today President Trump took a different path, directing the State Department to begin the likely long process of moving the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and officially recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Currently not a single country has its embassy in Jerusalem.


TRUMP: While previous presidents have made this a major campaign promise, they failed to deliver. Today I am delivering. I've judged this course of action to be in the best interests of the United States of America and the pursuit of peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

KEITH: While Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu applauded, the Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas, said President Trump's announcement amounts to the U.S. withdrawing from the role it has played in Middle East peace. The European Union, United Nations and numerous U.S. allies in Europe and the Middle East voiced concern about this leading to unrest and violence and hurting the peace process. Trump, however, was careful to say the decision was not intended to change the U.S. commitment to working toward a lasting peace agreement.


TRUMP: We want an agreement that is a great deal for the Israelis and a great deal for the Palestinians. We are not taking a position of any final status issues, including the specific boundaries of the Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem or the resolution of contested borders.

KEITH: Trump's action today as much as anything is about keeping a promise - this promise.


TRUMP: We will move the American embassy to the eternal capital of the Jewish people, Jerusalem.


KEITH: That was Trump last year speaking at the pro-Israel American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (ph) conference in Washington, D.C. He got a standing ovation. Keeping a campaign pledge as the international community and American allies howl has become something of a pattern for President Trump.


TRUMP: I followed through on my promise to withdraw from the Paris climate accord.


TRUMP: We just officially terminated TPP.


TRUMP: Iran is not living up to the spirit of the deal.

KEITH: All of these moves were more symbolic than immediate, as may well be the case with the relocation of the embassy in Israel. But in the Middle East, even symbolic steps have frequently sparked violence. The State Department has warned U.S. citizens in the region to be careful. Tamara Keith, NPR News, the White House. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tamara Keith has been a White House correspondent for NPR since 2014 and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast, the top political news podcast in America. Keith has chronicled the Trump administration from day one, putting this unorthodox presidency in context for NPR listeners, from early morning tweets to executive orders and investigations. She covered the final two years of the Obama presidency, and during the 2016 presidential campaign she was assigned to cover Hillary Clinton. In 2018, Keith was elected to serve on the board of the White House Correspondents' Association.