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Trump told not to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital ahead of visit

The Dome of The Rock is a UNESCO heritage site situated in Jerusalem's Old City
AHMAD GHARABLI (AFP/File)
Top US officials tell the US president that US embassy move to Jerusalem could harm the peace process

US top officials warned US President Donald Trump not to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital on his upcoming visit to the region, for fear that it could ruin the peace process, CNN reported on Tuesday.

According to the report, top US officials close to the president warned that the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital could have broad regional risks, echoing recommendations from leaders in the region, including Jordan's King Abdullah who warned Trump that an embassy move would have a negative impact on the peace process.

Sources told CNN that advisers close to the president are still insisting that Trump keep the promise he made on the campaign trail to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital and to relocate the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

In an unprecedented move on Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu published meeting notes from his visit with Trump at the White House in February, in order to affirm that he tried to convince Trump to relocate the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

"The prime minister was asked about moving the embassy and explained that this wouldn’t cause bloodshed in the region as people were telling him [Trump],” says the report, which was written by then-Acting National Security Adviser Jacob Nagel.

Netanyahu's office also published meeting notes from another meeting the prime minister had in January with Trump, just before the US president's inauguration, asserting that the embassy move would not hinder the peace process.

“The ambassador explained why moving the embassy would help advance peace and not the opposite,” the report released by the Prime Minister’s Office said. “It will convey a message that we are in Jerusalem to stay. Moving the embassy will force the other side to cope with the lie they are formulating that Israel has no connection to Jerusalem, and will lead them to understand that Israel will remain forever and that its capital will be Jerusalem.”

Trump is still weighing how a potential move of the US Embassy to Jerusalem would affect prospects for an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday.

JACK GUEZ (AFP/File)

"The president is being very careful to understand how such a decision would impact the peace process," Tillerson said. He added that the decision would be informed by responses from all parties, including "whether Israel views it as helpful to a peace initiative or perhaps a distraction."

Trump is to begin his first trip abroad as president on May 19, visiting Saudi Arabia, Israel (and the West Bank city of Bethlehem), and the Vatican before jetting to a NATO meeting in Brussels and the G7 summit in Sicily.

During his presidential campaign, Trump controversially promised to move the embassy and to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's "undivided" capital.

Since Trump's inauguration on January 20, there's been a lack of clarity and conflicting reports on whether the right-wing firebrand is going to make good on the promise and his Middle East peace policy has been in flux. While Trump has articulated support for peace between the two sides, he has yet to explicitly endorse the creation of a fledgling Palestinian state, or join the international consensus supporting a two-state solution.

At a February 2017 press conference with Netanyahu, Trump publicly wavered on the two-state solution.

"I am looking at two states or one state, and I like the one that both parties like," Trump said, adding that "the two states looks like it could be the easier of the two."

National Security Adviser General H.R. McMaster referenced "self-determination" for the Palestinians this week, suggesting that the administration supports the two-state solution.

A senior member of a US delegation preparing for President Donald Trump's upcoming visit to Israel reportedly snapped that the Western Wall is "not your territory" while discussing details of the president's visit to the Jerusalem holy site with with Israeli counterparts on Monday.

Read more:

Official's Western Wall comment 'doesn't represent Trump or US policy': WH

Tillerson: Trump weighing how moving Israel embassy would affect peace prospects

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