US President Donald Trump delivers a statement on Jerusalem from the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House in Washington (AFP)
The US will recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move its embassy to the disputed city, Donald Trump said on Wednesday in a much-anticipated speech.
“After more than two decades of waivers, we are no closer to a lasting peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, it would be folly to assume that repeating the exact same formula would produce a different result," said the US president in an announcement.
“Therefore I have determined that it is the time to officially recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.”
"I've judged this course of action to be in the best interest of the United States of America and the pursuit of peace between Israel and the Palestinians," he added, saying it was something that "has to be done."
He said that he had alerted the state department to begin preparations to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
"The new US embassy in Jerusalem will be a fantastic tribute to peace," he said.
Trump was pushed to act on the embassy as a result of a 1995 law, which stated that Jerusalem "should be recognised as the capital of the state of Israel" and the US embassy be moved there.
A waiver has been invoked by successive US presidents, postponing the move on grounds of "national security" once every six months, meaning the law has never taken effect.
US President Donald Trump holds up the memorandum after he delivered a statement on Jerusalem from the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House (WH.gov)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu quickly announced that he was "profoundly grateful to the President for his courageous and just decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel" in a statement.
Conversely, Hamas warned that the move would "open the gates of hell" on US interests in the region.
Ismail Radwan, an official with the Palestinian Islamist movement that runs the Gaza Strip, called on Arab and Islamic states to "cut off economic and political ties with the US embassy and expel American ambassadors to cripple" this decision.
Palestine Liberation Organisation executive committee chair Saeb Erekat told Al-Jazeera that Trump "had officially declared the destruction of the two-state solution" and "disqualified his country from any possible role in the peace process."
Trump portrayed the move, which has been widely condemned, as a new direction in the process of negotiating peace between the Israelis and Palestinians. He said that Vice President Mike Pence would be travelling to the region in the coming days to speak with representatives of all groups.
“We are not taking a position of any final status issues, including the final boundaries or the resolution of contested borders. Those questions are up to the parties involved,” he said.
“Our children should inherit our love, not our conflicts."
News of the announcement has sparked alarm and outrage from the Palestinians and most of international community, while Israelis and pro-Israeli activists welcomed the move as long overdue.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres warned shortly after the announcement that there could be no solution to the conflict in Israel-Palestine without Jerusalem as “capital of Israel and Palestine.”
“There is no alternative to the two-state solution. There is no plan B," he said in a statement.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu condemned the embassy move in a tweet shortly after the announcement.
"We condemn the irresponsible statement of the US Administration declaring that it recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and it will be moving the US Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem," he said.
"This decision is against international law and relevant UN Resolutions."
On Wednesday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called a meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation to coordinate a response to the United States' decision.
Turkey's foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, called the US decision a "grave mistake… It will not bring any stability but rather chaos and instability. The whole world is against this."
Jordan and Palestinian representatives called for an emergency Arab League meeting to discuss the issue.
Britain's prime minister Theresa May said on Wednesday she would call Trump about his proposed announcement, while both Germany and France – also criticial of the move – updated travel advice fro their citizens, warning of the possibility for violence following the announcement.
“The status of Jerusalem should be determined as a negotiated settlement between the Israelis and the Palestinians and Jerusalem should be a shared capital,” said May.
'Days of rage'
Palestinians called for three days of protests – or "days of rage" – starting Wednesday, raising fears of potential unrest, while Palestinian representatives said Trump's move would mean the "kiss of death" to the two-state solution, and the official end of any hopes of a peace process.
"He is declaring war in the Middle East, he is declaring war against 1.5 billion Muslims (and) hundreds of millions of Christians that are not going to accept the holy shrines to be totally under the hegemony of Israel," Manuel Hassassian, the chief Palestinian representative to Britain, told BBC radio.
Speaking to Al Jazeera, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh described Trump's decision as "flagrant aggression".
"This decision is an uncalculated gamble that will know no limit to the Palestinian, Arab and Muslim reaction," he said.
"We call on stopping this decision fully because this will usher in the beginning of a time of terrible transformations, not just on the Palestinian level but on the region as a whole.
"This decision means the official announcement of the end of the peace process."
Jerusalem's municipal government shone Israeli and American flags on the walls of the old city of Jerusalem in anticipation of the move on Wednesday:
American and Israeli flag posted on wall of the Old City in Jerusalem (AFP)
Israel seized the largely Arab eastern sector of Jerusalem during the 1967 Six-Day War and later annexed it, claiming both sides of the city as its capital.
The Palestinians want the eastern sector as the capital of their future state.
The US State Department issued a cable to all its diplomatic posts worldwide on Wednesday asking its officials to defer non-essential travel to Israel, Jerusalem and the West Bank until 20 December, according to a copy of the cable seen by Reuters.
"Embassy Tel Aviv and Consulate General Jerusalem request that all non-essential visitors defer their travel to Israel, Jerusalem and the West Bank from December 4-December 20, 2017," said the cable, which did not specify a reason for the request.
– Additional reporting by AFP and Reuters