President Trump said Wednesday he is formally recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital and is ordering the State Department to begin moving the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
"I have determined that it is time to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel," the president said during a speech in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House.
Trump added, "Jerusalem is not just the heart of three great religions, but it is now also the heart of one of the most successful democracies in the world."
The move fulfills a campaign promise made to religious conservatives. But it could also inflame tensions across the Middle East.
Ahead of the president's announcement, one administration official described the move as an "honest" acknowledgement of a "seven-decade old fact."
"While President Trump recognizes that the status of Jerusalem is a highly sensitive issue, he does not think it will be resolved by ignoring the simple truth that Jerusalem is home to Israel's legislature, its Supreme Court, the prime minister and is such the capital of Israel," the official said.
The U.S. would be the first country to move its embassy to Jerusalem, which is claimed by both Israelis and Palestinians. Other countries who have diplomatic relations with Israel keep their embassies in Tel Aviv.
But the embassy move would not be immediate and could take at least three or four years.
The U.S. officials said there are currently about 1,000 personnel in the embassy in Tel Aviv. They added that there is no facility in Jerusalem ready to serve as the embassy site, and it will take time to address security, design and cost concerns.
Ahead of the announcement, Trump spoke Tuesday with Palestinian President Mahmood Abbas, Jordanian King Abdullah and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Netanyahu has said he supports the U.S. moving its embassy. But Abbas has warned of the "gravity of consequences" should the move become official for "the peace process and security and stability in the region and world."
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned that moving the capital was a "red line" for Muslims, and such an action could result in Turkey severing diplomatic ties with Israel.
The controversy surrounding the move of the embassy dates back decades. A law passed in 1995 under the Clinton administration considers Jerusalem the capital, and even mandates the move of the embassy there.
But the law allows for a loophole used by former Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama – an option to issue waivers every six months to delay the move from Tel Aviv.
Trump also took advantage of the loophole, which Republicans have long called to be closed. Trump's first waiver was signed in June, which drew praise from the Palestinians and some disappointment from Israel.
The administration officials said Tuesday that Trump will still sign a waiver to keep from jeopardizing State Department funding while the relocation process begins.
Fox News' Brooke Singman and The Associated Press contributed to this report.