Trump flouts warnings, declares Jerusalem Israel's capital

President Donald Trump speaks in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House, Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017, in Washington. Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital despite intense Arab, Muslim and European opposition to a move that would upend decades of U.S. policy and risk potentially violent protests. Vice President Mike Pence listens at right. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
A view of Jerusalem's old city is seen Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017. U.S. officials say President Donald Trump will recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital on Wednesday, Dec. 6, despite intense Arab, Muslim and European opposition to a move that would upend decades of U.S. policy and risk potentially violent protests. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)
FILE - In this Sept. 24, 2015 file photo, Palestinians pray during the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, near the Dome of the Rock Mosque in the Al Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem's old city. Saudi Arabia has spoken out strongly against any possible U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. In a statement on the state-run Saudi Press Agency, the Foreign Ministry said Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017, that the kingdom affirms the rights of Palestinian people regarding Jerusalem which it said “cannot be changed.” (AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean, File)
Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan gestures as he delivers a speech during a meeting of his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), in Ankara, Turkey, Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017. Erdogan says U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital is a 'red line' for Muslims and also said such a step would lead Turkey to cut off all diplomatic ties with Israel. (Yasin Bulbul/Pool via AP)
FILE - In this July 25, 2017 file photo, Jerusalem's Old City is seen trough a door with the shape of star of David. Turkey and the Palestinians have warned of dire diplomatic repercussions in the Middle East if President Donald Trump goes ahead with a possible recognition of the hotly contested Jerusalem as Israel's capital. The Arab League with almost two dozen member states was to discuss the controversy later Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty, File)
President Donald Trump speaks in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House, Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017, in Washington. Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital despite intense Arab, Muslim and European opposition to a move that would upend decades of U.S. policy and risk potentially violent protests. Vice President Mike Pence listens at left. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Palestinian burn a poster of the U.S. President Donald Trump during a protest in Bethlehem, West Bank, Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2017. President Trump forged ahead Tuesday with plans to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital despite intense Arab, Muslim and European opposition to a move that would upend decades of U.S. policy and risk potentially violent protests. (AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean)

WASHINGTON — Defying dire, worldwide warnings, President Donald Trump on Wednesday broke with decades of U.S. and international policy by recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

Despite urgent appeals from Arab and European leaders and the risk of anti-American protests and violence, Trump declared that he was ending an approach that for decades has failed to advance the prospects for peace. He also for the first time personally endorsed the concept of a "two-state solution" for Israel and the Palestinians, provided both sides agree to it.

"I have determined that it is time to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel," he said in a White House address, calling it "overdue" and in the best interests of the United States. He said recognition acknowledged the "obvious" that Jerusalem is the seat of Israel's government despite the disputed status that is one of the key elements in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

"This is nothing more or less than the recognition of reality," he said.

Trump also directed that the State Department begin the process of moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem as required by U.S. law. Officials said, however, that the move will take years to complete.

Trump maintained that his decision would not compromise the city's geographic and political borders, which will still be determined by Israel and the Palestinians.

Ahead of Trump's speech, Arab and Muslim leaders spoke about the potential for violence. In Gaza, hundreds of Palestinian protesters burned American and Israeli flags. They also waved Palestinian flags and banners proclaiming Jerusalem as their "eternal capital," language that Israelis similarly use for their nation.

Even America's closest allies in Europe questioned the wisdom of Trump's radical departure from the past U.S. position, which was studiously neutral over the sovereignty of the city.

Jerusalem includes the holiest ground in Judaism. It's also home to Islam's third-holiest shrine and major Christian sites, and any perceived harm to Muslim claims to the city has triggered protests in the past, in the Holy Land and beyond.

America's consulate in Jerusalem has ordered U.S. personnel and their families to avoid visiting Jerusalem's Old City or the West Bank, and urged American citizens in general to avoid places with increased police or military presence.

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