WASHINGTON -- President Donald Trump said Wednesday that the United States will recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and will begin a process to transfer the U.S. Embassy to the ancient city, reversing decades of U.S. policy and defying sweeping international criticism.
"I have determined it is time to officially recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital," Trump declared in a speech at the White House. "This is nothing more than a recognition of reality. It is also the right thing to do."
Trump called for calm even as he conceded his announcement, which he followed with a signed proclamation, would generate "disagreement and dissent." It sparked protests in Palestinian territories and a fresh round of denunciations in foreign capitals worried about a new outbreak of violence in the volatile region.
Trump said his administration no longer would follow the "failed policies of the past." And he took a swipe at previous presidents who failed to officially recognize Jerusalem.
"Some say they lacked courage. ... After two decades, delaying recognition has done nothing to achieve peace," he said. "It would be folly to assume repeating this would make a better result."
Israelis and Palestinians both claim Jerusalem as their capital, and until now, neither claim was widely recognized. Instead, the international consensus, backed by United Nations resolutions and all U.S. presidents, was to negotiate the city's status as part of a peace deal to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
No other country has established an embassy in Jerusalem, and the White House said it would take several years to select a site and build the facility. But Trump's announcement fulfilled a core campaign pledge, one critical to some conservative Jews and evangelical Christians in his base who believe the U.S. must do more to support Israel.
Trump insisted that his administration's so-far unsuccessful efforts to restart long-stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace talks were not undermined by his decision.
Trump said the announcement isn't intended to be a statement on the final boundaries that might be decided in a future peace deal and said the United States "would support a two-state solution if agreed to by both sides," the long-sought formula for a peace deal.
"The United States remains deeply committed to helping facilitate a peace agreement that is acceptable to both sides," Trump said. "I intend to do everything in my power to help forge such an agreement.