May 22, 2017 BY:
The Trump administration declared the president is in “Jerusalem, Israel,” on Monday for a series of meetings with Israeli officials, a proclamation that breaks with years of American policy refraining from stating that the city of Jerusalem is part of Israel.
Senior Trump administration officials had ignited a wave of controversy over the past several weeks when discussing Jerusalem, with some top officials refusing to say that the ancient city is part of Israel.
Decades of U.S. policy has refrained from formally labeling Jerusalem as part of Israel due to concerns this could negatively impact the Middle East peace process, in which Palestinian leaders have staked a claim to the city as their future capital.
Ahead of a joint press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the White House, on its official website, provided a live stream of the event. Prior to its start, the White House included a frame stating, “President Trump gives remarks with Prime Minister Netanyahu.” The location provided was “Jerusalem, Israel.”
The statement appears to be part of an effort to normalize this language, which is widely backed by U.S. lawmakers and senior officials in the administration, sources said.
The State Department, which is disposed to address the issue with more caution, declined to comment on the latest declaration, instead referring a reporter to the White House. The White House did not provide comment on the matter by press time. Pro-Israel observers on Twitter and other social media immediately praised the declaration.
The Obama administration also faced its own controversies when dealing with the city. The former administration was caught altering official photographs to remove “Israel” as the location for several meetings. The effort roiled the pro-Israel community, but was in line with standing U.S. policy.
The Trump administration has faced its own struggles on the issue.
Candidate Trump vowed in multiple speeches on the campaign trail that he would move the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, the country’s capital.
While U.S. law states that the embassy should be moved, consecutive presidents have waived the requirement, claiming that it interferes with efforts to advance Middle East peace.
Trump’s administration has taken heat from the pro-Israel community for failing thus far to take concrete action on moving the embassy. While White House officials maintain that the plan is still being examined, the slow roll of the move has angered Trump’s biggest pro-Israel supporters.
Trump administration officials also have issued a range of answers when pressed to explain whether they believe Jerusalem is part of Israel.
White House National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster last week would not tell reporters whether Israel’s holiest site, the Western Wall, is located in Israel proper.
The latest declaration on the issue by the Trump administration appears to show that the president is committed to affirming Israel’s sovereignty over the city and turning the page from years of chilly relations between the Israeli government and the United States under former President Barack Obama.
In joint remarks with Netanyahu, Trump emphasized his opposition to the landmark Iran nuclear deal, blaming the previous administration for inking a deal that has only emboldened the Islamic Republic.
Increased relations with Israel among some of its fiercest Arab enemies, including Saudi Arabia, have been sparked by Iran’s regional support for terrorism, Trump said.
A “lot of that progress has been made because of the aggression of Iran, it’s forcing people together in a very positive way,” Trump said. “It was a terrible, terrible thing for the United States to enter that deal, and believe me, Iran will never have a nuclear weapon, that I can tell you.”
The United States’s role in the nuclear deal “also gave them an ability to continue with terror,” Trump said. “No matter where we go, we see the signs of Iran in the Middle East.”
“No matter where we go—Syria, where we were forced to shoot the 59 missiles,” he continued. “No matter what area we’re in—Yemen, Iraq, no matter where we are we see the signs … whether it’s soldiers, whether it’s money and guns.”