State Dept. avoids saying Jerusalem is in Israel after Trump shift

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The State Department has not yet said whether the U.S. considers Jerusalem to be part of Israel, raising questions about the practical implications of President Trump’s recognition of the city as Israel’s capital.

Trump reversed nearly seven decades of U.S. foreign policy on Wednesday in announcing that the U.S. would acknowledge Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, a controversial move that threatened to derail future peace talks in the region.

But that decision left questions about the overall status of Jerusalem, which has long been at the center of tensions between the Israelis and the Palestinians.


Asked in a State Department briefing on Thursday what country the U.S. government considered Jerusalem to be in, David Satterfield, the acting assistant secretary for the agency’s Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, cited Trump’s statement.

“The president recognized Jerusalem as the capital of the state of Israel,” he said.

Satterfield said that while the U.S. may recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, there had been “no change in our policy with respect to consular practice or passport issuance at this time.”

For now, that means that passports issued to U.S. citizens born in Jerusalem will not list their country of birth as Israel, staying in line with a decades-old policy to record only Jerusalem as their place of birth.

It also means that the address of the U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem would continue to list the city name only, and not any particular country.

U.S. officials were also examining how the president’s recognition of Jerusalem would be reflected on government maps, Satterfield said Thursday. 

The status of Jerusalem has been a sensitive issue for decades. The city is home to holy sites revered by Muslims, Christians and Jews, and Palestinians have long aspired to establish at least part of the city as the capital of a future Palestinian state. In the days before Trump’s announcement, political leaders across the Arab and Muslim worlds warned that recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital would spark upheaval and undermine stability in the region.

But in making his announcement on Wednesday, Trump avoided calling Jerusalem the “undivided” capital of Israel and said that the move should not be construed as the U.S. taking a side on whether the city should be divided up.

Trump has vowed to broker a peace agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians, an achievement that has eluded his predecessors, calling it the “ultimate deal.”

Tags Donald Trump Jerusalem State Department

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