By Sue Surkes, Times of Israel—
US President Donald Trump will reverse longstanding US policy by officially recognizing the entire city of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, but will not implement his election campaign pledge to relocate the American embassy from Tel Aviv, the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper reported Thursday. There was no confirmation of the report.
According to the paper, Israel’s biggest selling daily, Trump will make the announcement during his upcoming visit to Israel, reportedly in late May — a trip the White House has confirmed it is “exploring.” He is also expected to express support for the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel, the paper said.
Since Israel declared independence in 1948, US policy has been not to recognize any party as sovereign in any part of Jerusalem. During his election campaign, Trump vowed repeatedly to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem, drawing fierce objections from the Palestinians. He will not announce an embassy move during his visit, the newspaper said, in its unsourced front page report.
Israel extended sovereignty to East Jerusalem and the Old City and claims the entire city as its capital; the Palestinians seek East Jerusalem as the capital of an independent Palestinian state.
No US president has visited Israel in the first months of his term.
The report said a delegation of some 25 US officials was due to arrive in Israel Thursday to start planning what will be a key stop on Trump’s first overseas trip as president.
The officials were expected to hold meetings at the Foreign Ministry, the President’s Residence and the Prime Minister’s Office.
Trump — expected to visit Israel and the Palestinian Authority during a lightning visit of around 36 hours in late May or early June — will be accompanied by his daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner, both among his closest advisers, the report said. His wife Melania is expected to remain in the US.
The president will likely combine the trip with visits to Jordan and Saudi Arabia, key players in any moves to establish regional peace. It will probably be timed to coincide with a NATO summit in Belgium on May 25.
Next week, Trump will host Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at the White House, as a prelude to a possible summit involving Abbas, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and leaders of the Sunni Arab world.
Such a summit would likely focus on the Saudi-proposed Arab Peace Initiative, which was endorsed by the Arab League in 2002, as the path toward reaching a final-status agreement.
Part of that framework includes a two-state outcome where Israel would withdraw from Palestinian-claimed territories and arrive at a “just” solution to the refugee issue in exchange for normalized ties with the entire Arab world.
Yedioth Ahronoth said Netanyahu had already agreed to limit West Bank settlement building while Abbas had promised to try to curb Palestinian terror as confidence-building measures by both sides.
Trump’s visit will reportedly be followed by trips to the region by his Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Nikki Haley, US ambassador to the United Nations. The latter has already reportedly been set to come in June.
Trump’s visit so early in his presidency stands in marked contrast to his predecessor Barack Obama’s first trip to the Jewish state, which only took place during his second presidential term.
The new US ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, is due to arrive in Jerusalem on May 15 and to present his credentials to President Reuven Rivlin in June.