Trump fulfills campaign promise of recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital

In a shift in long-standing U.S. policy, the president announced the American Embassy will move to Jerusalem.
21:35 | 12/06/17

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Transcript for Trump fulfills campaign promise of recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital
I'm Ron Claiborne in New York there were just leaving mass special report with George Stephanopolous where the president. Announcing that the US full recognized officially recognize. Jerusalem as the capital of Israel for the first time the US taking. That position and joining me here is Rick Klein media political director of ABC news Rick can you explain. This thankfully the political and diplomatic significance of the step that the president has just taken the song there signing the papers recognizing. A Jerusalem capital of Israel. There's hundreds of years of history in seventy years of American history that goes behind this but the bottom line is that the Israeli government. Has long maintained and and and treated Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The Palestinian people will also consider it to be capital so the reason that American presidents can have been hesitant to embrace that reality. Is that this is such a volatile region and of course United States is is viewed as a potential broker in Middle East peace in the many attempts in the past the president by all accounts has been frustrated by the fact that he couldn't be more clear because previous American presidents have said. Yes we will make Jerusalem the capital will have our embassy there but they have not acted on it the of looked at the political realities and now the president. President trump is saying forget those political realities on to try something different I'm when a scramble things in a big way it is a risky move it is a bold move it is a move that fulfills a campaign promise but it has lots a consequence we can't match. OK and that joining us now our senior global affairs correspondent Martha Raddatz Martha and the special report there. You raise the question I guess rhetorical or not why now why the president taking this step now. Well it certainly has a lot to do with domestic politics and I I I. When you look at what's happening overseas what you look what's happening in this patient peace initiative Jared Kushner. I don't think much is happening. But I I really was struck by how strongly he said no one's ever done this before presidents have promised to do this no one has ever done this before Nolan is ever declared. Our Jerusalem the capital. He's exactly right and no one has an embassy there and the world is alarmed by this so he left this impression that. Hey if I just declared the capital and we're gonna have a whole new kind of peace initiative going on here and I think you will have a peace initiative going on here. Which is about ten steps backwards from where it was before he also called out for young moderate voices to come forward. I'm not sure this is the kind of call that young moderate voices will answer. And mark good for let you go the president say his words that this move was in the best interest of the US and the pursuit of peace between. Israelis and Palestinians. How do you figure he figures that. I I I gotta tell you Iran I I do not now I I will say that it's it's exactly as we we're just saying it's a it's a bold move that's for sure. But it's a move that I think most analysts and certainly the rest of the world right now. Does not think will bring any sort of peace initiative in fact most of them. Believe it will bring while. It's OK Martha Raddatz thanks for analysts go to us Cecilia Vega. Who is our senior White House correspondent I believe you're on the steps of the White House now oral say background it looks like the White House this is Syria. It's the real White House Cecilia. What was the calculation here in the White House the president could have done this six months ago. He could've waited another six months or later why do you think he's doing this now. While I'm told Ron that he actually really wanted to do this essentially right out of the gate we've been talking about this all morning this is something that he campaigned strongly on. And and there was some frustration there that he couldn't do it sooner. We said this a lot with a number of issues with this president he's learning on the job he's new to politics he's new to Washington. This is one of those issues that falls into that category I'm told by people close to him. That he wanted to do this sooner he learned he realized that you can't just snap your finger as one aide told me. And move an embassy so so there was some frustration there with the process in the amount it time that it took to get here. That is one part of this certainly there is an immense amount of pressure on this president to make this move pressure from pro. Israel group pressure from evangelicals pressure from some very big donors nationally Elson. In Las Vegas casino magnate who had donated tens of millions of dollars dollars to support. Donald Trump was very upset the last time that this president sign this waiver to extend. The embassy in Tel Aviv so now he is facing. Real time decision to have to sign that waiver again. And and this White House tells me is here tell me that he didn't want to sign the waiver without making it look like he was doing something to at least start to. Move told court that that process a fulfilling his campaign. And quickly 11 other questions so yeah the president consulted with a number of allies foreign governments in Europe and the Middle East. There was apparently unanimity don't do this what if the order the president say back to them when they say this is of this is a bad idea. And he's got another call with Palestinian. Mahmoud Abbas right after he wrapped his speech I'm told that he will be. That that White House aides here will be on the phone on the other side of this with evangelicals and pro Israel groups later this afternoon to really try and hammer this message home. The message from this White House has been. And I think it's gonna be really hard to justify going forward that this will help. With the peace process but we have heard Palestinians time and time again over the last 24 hours say that the peace process is destroyed. Because of this move at the White House may today I don't case. So you've been a guest senior. White House correspondent reporting from Washington thanks for that we're gonna go now to a Molly hunter ABC news a correspondent who was in Jerusalem now a Molly. Has there been any reaction any reaction to this expected move but during the day. And if you can look into your crystal ball what do you expect to ensue over the next 44 hours or weeks. Chris above that would be acting Jack got a statement from prime minister and at you said it is a nice. Story day in the capital of Israel for nearly seventy years. I attack that Jerusalem and the focus of our hopes. Our streams our prayers for three millennia it's exactly what Netanyahu wanted to hear that Iran I will say. He didn't present from didn't go as far as next I would have what we did the words I'm divided capital gains in the words maternal capital of the Jewish people we didn't go. As far as the brightly here many Israelis but let me hear you just fed to risk them never said last year Islamic Nelson averaged at. Eastern I think Palestinians and President Abbas would've really liked here and they actually just west isn't the half that opened out. During that they. US is not taking a position on a final status if you. But his next sentence within Jerusalem is one of the most controversial of the toughest that the if you think to not take your pick if not one of those final that it if you. But knew that it I think any really really confusing for many Palestinians to try to work through. How how that's not Adam how that how that doesn't make fat and how that got contradict that. And Molly it's recliner one of the pick up on that point how realistic is it. To say that this decision doesn't prejudged future decisions it strikes me that this is actually. A critical piece that the president is essentially giving away to the Israeli side is it viewed that way on the ground as of views that bigger concession. I think people here are wondering if you think about the why now question. It is a one off I did chuck really just stated the play it safe for all the reasons that we just heard from our White House correspondent. Is this part of some grand strategy actually did he promise and he talked he has met behind closed north. And happy is really the Greek defense theory if meaningful valuable confection that and I think that's so we'll be coming days. Actually maybe there is product maybe this was something the US gave. The Israelis it's really actually possibly have things to get back but I don't think I play in Ramallah I don't think President Abbas is gonna be at valley. Molly that there's been some. Thought that this could trigger a certainly demonstrations possibly violence. In that region are by the Israelis brace for that art is the US embassy braced for that possible. The State Department has won all US embassies and consulates in the region Q race specifically where that is really an athlete rates that is either used it very good at dealing with it. Protest of this nature outlook it's 9 o'clock on us here in Jerusalem and the it's dark attic even later. Of course in the rest of the middle it in this arid states if I don't think we're gonna be anything tonight but what we're watching for it is react on the ground tomorrow that we have heard from. In action. Ate it up for three days at rates today Thursday and Friday. Tomorrow's an unknown but I'd Friday is where our focus is that Friday the biggest prayer day that's been the most Muslims pray it is Friday afternoon there. You'll have them on you'll have preachers. Speaking to large communities that must look you can bet that we've talked about this is not that the Palestinians it is not just about. The Palestinian Israeli. Domestic conflict. It's about outlast that this is about Jerusalem and Al Aqsa injuries but are important for the prior month and while. Molly O'Connor reporting from Jerusalem we thank you for that we're gonna go next to. To Terry Moran our chief foreign correspondent I believe your in London Terry I got to I got a question. Basic question for you where. Where are the prospects. For a peace process now what we're we're react. Well look it's always been a long shot that the light at the end of the tunnel seems they get farther and farther with every passing year and every. Changing of the facts on the ground by a by the Israeli government that has built settlements on land that as recently as president Clinton's. Effort to broker a peace deal was supposed to go to the Palestinian nation that was supposed to rise out of those negotiations. So right now. It just looks right dark I had to because for all the politics we've been talking about this isn't about politics it it is at bottom about fate. And maybe that's the most powerful force in human history about the Jewish face certain. Also about the Muslims and the Christian faith that patriarchs and leaders the Christian churches injures and Humana today into this would do irreparable damage to their community. They live there they know what the scores and so it looked to look past what was going to be very difficult period. Perhaps a very destructive and violent period as people absorb this this change which even if it's only symbolic. Look in faith symbols matter a matter a lot. I'd look to Saudi Arabia I think went when president trump talked about young moderate leaders he may well have been had in his mind. The crown prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammed been Solomon who's essentially running that country as his father. Cede power to him and liberalizing. Much of what's going on in Saudi Arabia as just there there's. How women are going to be able to drive and lots of other kinds of knew he wants and moderate Islam in part because he sees Saudi Arabia and Israel can make common cause against. The country they both think is their ultimate enemy Iran and that means they've got to solve the Palestinian issue so it may be. That witness the United States steps back from its central role what ever. An envoy the president sent over there it's on analyze vice president. And that they're going to try to make a deal in the region themselves but I gotta tell you calming down. Palestinians who through their faith and through their history believe the drizzle as their capital to anybody's been there sees that Jerusalem is a great Jewish city. And a great Muslim city. And to deny that is to deny the fact of its history and the faith traditions that. Are born there or develop there and now conflict there. Terry you use the word and irreparable and and reference to this move Molly hunter pointed out a moment ago that. The president didn't go quite as strong as Bibi Netanyahu the Israeli government would want to go in just flat out declaring. Jerusalem to be to be the capitol we know that the embassy movies at least six months away. There's still a lot of things that have to happen before that happens maybe even a change of administration. That in a how long this takes but is the view that this is some kind of of a threshold you can't turn back from that they did this for closes final status negotiations at this for closes the possibility. Of of fully hearing out the Palestinian side. If it doesn't I think in president trumps mind he's a deal maker think there's always room for more deal making. The problem is that by signing on. To the Israeli give governments the conservative Bibi Netanyahu is government's understanding of what Jerusalem is which I know that Molly says he didn't say western some Easter is in the didn't define it. But essentially he is signing on to what what. The Israeli government is doing which is they annexed East Jerusalem 420000. Palestinians. Live in East Jerusalem. When the Israeli government annexed it those people did not become citizens of Israel. They are essentially treated as foreign immigrants. Permanent residents who can Lou have no right despite the fact that they and generations before them were born and raised in Israel is in Jerusalem. They've got no right to citizenship. By signing on to a project that is viewed by them. By other Palestinians and by a much of the Arab world as an attempt to seize. Jerusalem. That will delegitimize. America's role. In future talks no matter how sincerely president trump Jared Kushner vice president parents want to say hey you can still have a capital there can't day. It Israel and Israel's gonna say that with our capital and we've changed it and annexed land and built settlements and change the nature of it which by the way. To be fair. That's the history of Jerusalem whoever wins it changes. It was Christian city for a while it was a Muslim city for awhile outs and a Jewish day Israeli city and everyone who gets a gets the right to change it and that is what is happening year by year month by month decade by decade. And president trump just signed on to that project whether he acknowledged that are not. -- rent and London arsonists thought they appreciate the era your insights and and perspective on this historic day. Gonna go now to may tenth Saxon director of the center of middle east policy at the Brookings Institution. Let me get your take on the repercussions. Of the movement the president's taken John Brennan the former CIA director said this was a reckless move and would. To stabilize the Middle East what do you think. I think has a classic case of something that is in theory obvious there's the nicely as the capital of Israel and extremely unwise. We don't know what's gonna follow we could hope that its relative calm that they'll be demonstrations they blow over a few days. But as he said we could be seeing much worse than that. What the president did now is bring in one of the most a motive thorniest topics that powder keg you don't want to touch. We brought front and center and to the peace process just whenever when is waiting to hear the peace plan from Jared Kushner Jason Greenblatt team. And just at that moment we brought in this religious issue that is that is scuttle the peace process in the past for example Camp David in 2000 it was the most difficult issue. To bring that back in make this again about religious emotions can be very difficult the president tried to it to qualified very strongly. As my said he didn't say and divided Jerusalem against the united Jerusalem he just said Jerusalem. He even set for the first time they'd accept estate solutions over the again qualified if that's what the parties wanted. He said also that this is not does say anything about the borders the boundaries of Israeli sovereignty. So we just heard the the issue that perhaps it includes Easter Sunday said basically it's open to negotiation and that the borders of the open to negotiation. But all that is new plants and nuance is exactly what is lost when you bring in religion and science in the most in motive explosive issue. Back in the middle of negotiations I fear that I hope that not too much happens this blows over we'll hear a lot of complaints from all across the world certainly the Arab and Muslim world is ready heard some. But I see demonstrations I hope that's it. But I fear that we may be risking much much worse. At this moment on December 6 2017. Are there any realistic. A prospects for reviving resuscitating. Peace talks of peace process here. Well these talks he probably can have they may have to be quiet you may have to somehow get something the Palestinians that they come back to the table. They're gonna have to placate a very very angry domestic audience right now in Austin international arena that's harder for them in the Arab world. He made he'll be able to get talks of course but the points after all is not talks the points is to get reach actual piece. And dare I hope I'm wrong I've been wrong about many things I hope this is one of them but I don't see a chance for peace right now. OK Nate and sex from Maria Brookings institute thank you very much for joining us to go back to. But Jerusalem for a final word from Molly hunter who's there a monitoring the reaction what what's the Israeli government. Saying if anything about this. We did hear from prime minister adds and I almost immediately act that he was overjoyed that it is exactly what you why you. I hear it it's that bad tribute to the great lasting relationship and the enduring relationship you know merit and have American president for the American government is like government actually earlier tonight about an hour ago Ron. We've got them merit to replant do with Israeli your bar pat put up the American flag and Israeli flag on the walls of the old city make this statement. To say. We are incredibly good friends and that flag. I didn't not necessarily in East Jerusalem those flags were huge on the last on the on the old city walk here and to respond. I do think money Alec carrying both talked about. The prospect that he that we are different. A spot leave it right on it and I think and it it minute. May it. You know for them for Bob. It collapsed you pay. You know I may actually rate you acting and threatening that if he. What Rabat is an automatic. Youth lock at. It here. All of that in part without if aggregate restart it is that. I think that's really keep in mind. Back at it. I do sit Bachmann Abbas is going to speak in a short while alive I believe on television what what do you think is likely. Likely you know you don't know yet they are that you will be sent. I think they're keeping that we should watch out where he's been saying that that he gave you Torre make cut ties with the US. And he's been saying that this is the and if he's profit now there is no off that right out of haven't really at a profit for awhile says saying that you're not gonna continue in the pot that. May he a lot of talk for his faith actually cutting ties with Washington. He. Abbas doesn't have a lot of options with a weak leader he's an old leader he really cornered. But he just my if he doesn't think you have is an honest broker after this eat after this event he might actually cut I think there was an acute. That would force about because I think it might eat your insolent. When you look out for what he looked to ratchet it looked to China for brokered. Possibly that this could actually really backfire if president I'm still really wants to be that guy that gets this grand deal got. Molly O'Connor thank you for that I want to turn as we begin to wrap up here back to recliner political director. How does this play here in the US domestically we've heard a number perspective that this this will be accepted happily. But by the trump base. Who wore a date why do they want this and what about the rest of the US constituent. We are seeing it glowing reviews for this move from the evangelical leaders from prominent Jewish leaders expect especially more right wing. Jewish leaders there was a reference earlier about the so you may get some. Some prominent conservative Jewish donors for whom this is a threshold issue you have this even do this evangelicals. Many of whom. You Jerusalem as the eternal home of the Jewish people have also been very very adamant about the need to. To support Israel and support the idea of Jerusalem is also being in a twisting partisan issue because as president trump reference this has been. Technically the law of the land for some twenty year up under democratic presidents wells Republican presidents presidents Clinton and Obama President Bush. Also they wanted to do it many members of congress who typically would be very critical. A president trump actually have to say you know what this is the policy that I supported it before it would support in Israel some of them are questioning the timing. I've struck run by the by how classic this is as it can't rule in that. Eat eat eat it drops a little pebble. Without a plan for what happens with those ripples and not knowing exactly how portico at that to me is it that disruptive quality. If the fact the president says it hasn't worked before so I'm and try this instead. It's it's a valid point to make that there was no peace process to even destroyed. By making its move but that's kind of the point we're nowhere ought and this would seem to put us a step back from that and he's got to trust in his own. Deal making abilities to try to put these pieces back together but this is a heck of a gamble in a very volatile region.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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