In May, President Donald Trump will make good on his promise in December 2017 to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in recognition of that city as the official capital of Israel. The new embassy is set to open much earlier than previously predicted.
Despite opposition from the Palestinian Authority and its backers, President Trump has stood firm in his resolve to recognize the capital city. Other countries have been critical of his decision. Many hoped that, amid all the planning, there would be time for advisers to convince him to reconsider. Although he has encountered quite a bit of backlash, he has also received considerable support.
The opening of the embassy will coincide with the anniversary of Israel’s establishment as a nation on May 14, 1948. A ribbon-cutting will be held in mid-May to mark the occasion.
Initially, the new location will be housed inside the US Consular in Arnona, a neighborhood in southern Jerusalem. The Ambassador, David Friedman, and a small number of his staff will be the first to move in. The compound will serve as a temporary site until construction on a permanent facility is completed. The long-term project is expected to take several years, with an estimated cost of up to $500 million.
A portion of the funds to pay for the embassy may come from Republican donor Sheldon Adelson. The president is considering the legality of such a contribution. Another possibility would be to solicit donations from evangelicals and the American Jewish community. Government lawyers, however, would have to approve such a fundraising effort, and it’s not yet clear whether they will sign off on it.
Addressing the Conservative Political Action Conference, Trump said, “Every President campaigned on, ‘We’re going to move the embassy,’ then they never pulled it off,” he added. “This is nothing more or less than a recognition of reality. It is also the right thing to do. It is something that has to be done.”
He went on to point out that Jerusalem is “the seat of Israel’s government,” and that as a sovereign nation, Israel has the right to determine its own capital. The president considers his decision an essential step toward achieving peace there.
Congress learned of the plan after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson authorized a security plan for the new embassy. “We are excited about taking this historic step, and look forward with anticipation to the May opening,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement.
According to Fox News, the goal of the Trump administration is for the US to first establish a “footprint” in the capital city in May, with an expanded, though temporary, facility to follow. Officials report that by the end of next year, an annex to the compound in Arnona will be completed. The search for a permanent site is currently underway.
The decision to move the embassy had been contemplated for decades. Under the Clinton administration, a law was enacted in 1995 officially recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, with plans to relocate the embassy there. However, former Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama took advantage of a loophole in the law to issue six-month waivers to delay the move. President Trump also used the loophole, signing a waiver in June 2017. The US is the first country to relocate its embassy from Tel Aviv.
Not surprisingly, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lauded the plan, calling it a “courageous and just” decision. He thanked Trump for his friendship and leadership.
Palestinian President Mahmood Abbas, however, warned of “the gravity and consequences” for the “peace process and security and stability in the region and the world.” He has also ruled out recognizing US-led peace efforts in the Middle East. Palestinian officials call the move a violation of international law, saying that it will destroy prospects of reaching a two-state solution.
Though the details have yet to be hammered out, the US Department of State is committed to creating policies that do not compromise the safety of those who visit or work at the embassy. The US embassy in Tel Aviv employs about 1,000 personnel, and officials acknowledge that resolving concerns surrounding security, design, and costs won’t be accomplished overnight.
~ 1776 Christian