Several world leaders argued that the move makes plain U.S. bias in favor of Israel and the hard-right government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has offered fulsome praise for Trump.
Previous U.S. administrations have cast themselves as honest brokers in the Middle East, toiling endlessly to resolve one of history's most intractable conflicts. The appearance now, at least in the Arab world, is that Trump has taken one side.
Trump's critics said the Jerusalem move further isolates America in the global community. He also has vowed to withdraw from the Paris climate accord, making the United States the only country in the world not to back the international effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
But the move pleased some of Trump's political supporters at home. John Hagee, a pastor who founded a group called Christians United for Israel, has met with Trump personally in the White House and advocated for Trump to move the embassy.
In his announcement Wednesday, Trump said he is instructing the State Department to begin a multiyear process for building a U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem, asking for money from Congress, choosing a site and designing the building.
For now, as previous presidents have done, Trump will sign a six-month waiver to a 1995 law that required the State Department to move the embassy from its current site in Tel Aviv.
Administration officials would not commit to a timetable, but one senior official said that opening a new U.S. embassy routinely takes three to four years.
Some former and current American diplomats had hoped Trump also would pledge to eventually build a U.S. embassy in East Jerusalem for a Palestinian state.
Condemnation and concern poured in from foreign leaders over the past week as news emerged of Trump's plan.
"I cannot keep quiet about my deep worry about the situation that has been created in the last few days," Pope Francis said Tuesday.