The U.S. Embassy in Israel will officially move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in May as Israel celebrates its 70th Independence Day, the State Department said Friday.
Steven Goldstein, undersecretary of state for public diplomacy, said that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson approved a security plan Thursday evening for “a facility” in Jerusalem.
The plan is to open the new facility May 14.
“We’re looking at that as a possible date, but safety of the Marines and other people who visit and work there is primary,” said Goldstein.
Reacting to the news Friday, PLO Secretary-General Saeb Erekat called the move a “flagrant violation of international law and agreements” signed between the Palestinians and Israel that will “destroy” the two-state solution, the Times of Israel reported.
Pointing out that the date coincides with the anniversary of Israel’s independence – which the Palestinians call “the Nakba,” meaning “catastrophe” in Arabic – Erekat said the decision was “provocative to the feelings of all Arabs and Muslims.”
A State Department official confirmed the date to the Jerusalem Post after Israel’s transport minister, Israel Katz, appeared to indicate in a tweet that the move would take place in the spring.
Katz said the U.S. Embassy will initially be located on a compound in Jerusalem’s Arnona neighborhood that currently houses the consular operations of the Consulate General Jerusalem.
“At least initially, it will consist of the ambassador and a small team,” he said.
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Reshet TV of Israel reported the U.S. ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, will move his office and a small staff of four or five people to a building known as The Diplomat Hotel, which the State Department bought in 2014.
Residents in the neighborhood have noticed workmen delivering crates and furniture to the building, the Israeli channel said.
The State Department continues to examine possible sites for the construction of a larger, permanent embassy in Jerusalem, the Post reported.
Trump: ‘It’s the right thing to do’
Last month, on his trip to Israel, Vice President Pence said the permanent embassy will open by the end of 2019, a faster timeline than had been previously reported.
“In the weeks ahead, our administration will advance its plan to open the United States Embassy in Jerusalem — and that United States Embassy will open before the end of next year,” Pence said.
The Trump administration is considering an offer from Republican donor Sheldon Adelson to pay for at least part of a new embassy in Jerusalem, four U.S. officials told the Associated Press.
At the Conservative Political Action Conference on Friday, President Trump mentioned his discussion with world leaders leading up to his decision in December to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the embassy there.
“I said, ‘I have to do it, because it’s the right thing to do,'” Trump said. “The campaign against it was so incredible. But you know what, the campaign for it was also incredible.”
Clinton, Bush, Obama supported embassy move
As WND reported, the United Nations General Assembly voted 128-9 in favor of a resolution declaring Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel on Dec. 6 “null and void.”
The president’s decision sparked violent protests in the Middle East and a call from Hamas for an uprising against Israel.
The Trump administration’s move fulfilled the requirements of a 1995 law that was adopted overwhelmingly by the Senate (93-5) and the House (374-37).
When Trump announced the decision, he reiterated his commitment to peace in the Middle East, noting the previous policy of not recognizing “the reality” that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital brought us “no closer to a lasting peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.”
The Palestinian leadership, Fatah and Hamas, claims the Jewish people have falsified their 3,000 year-old history to lay claim to Jerusalem. The holy city, the Palestinians insist, is “Palestinian” and must be the capital of a future Palestinian state.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital a milestone.
“There are major moments in the history of Zionism: the Balfour Declaration, the founding of the state, the liberation of Jerusalem and Trump’s announcement yesterday,” he said in a video posted to social media.
Hamas, meanwhile, said the decision “opens the gates of hell” and called for several days of protests.
After the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 was passed, Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama signed every six months a waiver incorporated in the law allowing the president to delay its implementation for national security reasons.
President Trump signed the waiver in June but decided in December to finally implement the law.
The three presidents who chose to delay enacting the Jerusalem Embassy Act nevertheless affirmed publicly that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital, and two of them said they supported moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem.
Obama, a Democrat, told the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in 2008 that Jerusalem “will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided. I have no illusions that this will be easy.”
Bush, a Republican, promised during the 2000 campaign that “as soon as I take office I will begin the process of moving the U.S. ambassador to the city Israel has chosen as its capital.”
And Clinton, a Democrat, entered office in 1993 saying he supported “the principle” of moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem.