An expected announcement by President Donald Trump that the US will become the first country to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital has been dubbed a “kiss of death” for the Middle East peace process by the Palestinians.
But an Israeli minister urged other countries to follow the US lead.
Mr Trump, expected to confirm the decision later on Wednesday, described the announcement as “long overdue”.
“Many presidents have said they want to do something and they didn’t do it.”
The president’s remarks came ahead of his planned speech in Washington.
Mr Trump will also start the process of moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
The two decisions – which would fulfil a campaign promise and appeal to Mr Trump’s right-wing base – risk a heated reaction from US allies in the Muslim world and, potentially, protests and unrest.
They also make it difficult for the US to be seen as a neutral mediator in the Middle East peace process.
Pope Francis called for the status quo in Jerusalem to be respected, in line with United Nations resolutions.
Israel occupied East Jerusalem, previously occupied by Jordan, in the 1967 Middle East war and regards the entire city as its indivisible capital.
The Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state, and according to 1993 Israel-Palestinian peace accords, its final status is meant to be discussed in the latter stages of peace talks.
Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem has never been recognised internationally, and until now all countries have maintained their embassies in Tel Aviv.
The issue goes to the heart of Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians, who are backed by the Arab and Islamic worlds.
The city is home to key religious sites sacred to Judaism, Islam and Christianity, especially in East Jerusalem.
Since 1967, Israel has built a dozen settlements, home to about 200,000 Jews, in East Jerusalem. These are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.
If the US recognises Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, it will put it out of step with the rest of the international community and reinforce Israel’s position that settlements in the east are valid Israeli communities.
Trump administration officials said recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital was an acknowledgment of “historical and current reality” by the US government.
However, specific boundaries of the city would remain subject to a final status agreement, the officials said. The status of holy sites would not be affected.
Mr Trump would also direct the state department to begin the process of moving the US embassy to Jerusalem – but this could take several years as it still has to be designed and built, and security concerns would need to be addressed.