Washington Free Beacon

U.S. Bolstering Security, Bracing For Possible Violence, Ahead of ‘Historic’ Jerusalem Speech

A view of the Western Wall and the golden Dome of the Rock Islamic shrine on December 6, 2017 in Jerusalem, Israel / Getty Images

The United States is working to plan for potential security situations in Israel and the Middle East ahead of President Donald Trump's announcement Wednesday afternoon that he will recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital city and begin the process to move the U.S. embassy there, a move that has already sparked violent rhetoric among the Palestinians and other Arab factions.

U.S. officials familiar with the situation disclosed that the State and Defense Departments, along with other agencies, have already "gotten together with particular attention to State Department diplomatic security" concerns that could arise in the days and weeks following Trump's Wednesday announcement.

While officials would not speak to specific security measures, per U.S. policy, they said that an announcement of this nature necessitates that the United States begin to plan and prepare for potential emergency situation.

"We have an outstanding responsibility … Whenever an event, predicted or unpredicted, occurs, we assess potential liabilities and impacts on security for U.S. personnel and citizens in the region," according to one senior administration official who spoke on background.

This security assessment is ongoing, with officials planning to "take whatever prudent measures might be necessary in advance, and as events flow, to protect American citizens abroad," the official said.

State Department officials and others have expressed concerns that Trump's announcement, which is being touted as "historic" in nature, could inflame tensions and spark violent protests.

Some Palestinian and Arab factions in the region have already vowed to undertake violent protest after Trump declares his intent to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital and move the U.S. embassy there.

"We're obviously concerned about the protection of U.S. citizens, U.S. officials anywhere in the world, including the Middle East," said another senior administration official in a Tuesday evening brief with reporters. "We'll act appropriately on those assessments to provide the degree of protection we believe necessary."

Senior U.S. officials disclosed ahead of the president's speech, which has been kept relatively secret for some time, that the recognition of Jerusalem is "happening for real this time."

This would fulfill a major campaign promise by Trump and bring the White House in line with a U.S. law approved in 1995 providing similar recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

Every U.S. administration since the law was passed has issued a waiver delaying the embassy move in the interests of U.S. security.

While Trump will again sign this waiver, which requires renewed authorization every six months, he will make clear in his speech that U.S. policy regarding Jerusalem has shifted.

Signing the waiver gives the State Department time to find a proper location for the new embassy and stops it from losing up to 50 percent of its funding, as is required under the 1995 law.

Officials expect the move from start to finish could take up to or longer than four years.

The speech is meant to be a "long overdue recognition of reality," according to senior administration officials who spoke at the speech ahead of its delivery.

"It is not meant to change the U.S. approach in dealing with the Israelis and Palestinians and helping them facilitate a peace agreement," but is about "honesty and recognition of plain facts," one senior White House official said.

U.S. officials, in the lead up to Trump's speech, have coordinated closely with Congress and foreign leaders to ensure they are fully briefed on the administration's decision.

This includes "working on security plans to ensure safety of citizens and assets," according to one senior administration official.

"One of the factors that makes finding, siting, and building a new U.S. embassy somewhat of a process" is security concerns, the official said. "Having made this announcement, we're serious about getting it done," but "it will take time, as security is one of those concerns."

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.) praised the president's decision in a statement provided to the Washington Free Beacon.

"The President recognized a reality: Jerusalem is the capital of Israel," McCarthy said. "The House and Senate have on three separate occasions supported recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital, including by enacting the Jerusalem Embassy Act in 1995 to move the United States embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. If acknowledging truth inspires violence, it is those who commit the violence, not the truth, that are at fault."

U.S. officials said that Trump will formally instruct the State Department to begin the lengthy process of relocating the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv to a spot in Jerusalem, where the United States already maintains a consulate.