U.S. senior officials say Trump to recognize Jerusalem as Israeli capital, move embassy there

WASHINGTON, Dec. 5 -- U.S. senior officials said Tuesday that U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday will recognize Jerusalem as the capital city of Israel and move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Trump's move is likely to spark further tensions in the Middle East and undermine the U.S. standing as a peace mediator of the Palestine-Israel issue.

Trump "will recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel," the officials told reporters at a tele-conference, explaining that the U.S. president "views this as a recognition of reality, both historical reality and ... modern reality."

Trump will also "direct the State Department to begin the process of moving the United States' embassy from its current location in Tel Aviv to a site in Jerusalem," said the officials on the condition of anonymity, adding this will take years to finish.

"That does not mean the embassy will move tomorrow," they said, adding that there are about 1,000 personnel in the Tel Aviv embassy. "It will take some time to find a site, address security concerns, design a new facility, find a new facility ... and build it, so this is not an instantaneous process."

In 1995, former U.S. President Bill Clinton signed a law requiring that the U.S. embassy in Israel be relocated from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, unless the president issues a waiver every six months.

Since Clinton, all presidents have signed the waiver, believing the city's fate should be decided through negotiations between Israel and Palestine.

This week marks a turning point for Trump, who last signed the waiver in June. He vowed during his presidential campaign last year to move the U.S. embassy in Israel.

The officials said Trump will continue to sign the waiver until preparations for the embassy move are complete.

The status of Jerusalem is one of the ultimate questions for the Palestinian-Israeli peace process, which has been stalled since April 2014 following nine months of U.S.-brokered talks without major progress.

The status of the city is not settled as the Palestinians want to make East Jerusalem, occupied by Israel in 1967, the capital of their future independent state, while Israel declared the integral city of Jerusalem as its capital, a claim not recognized by the international community.

Israel has controlled the western part of Jerusalem since it was founded in 1948.