U.S. to open Jerusalem embassy 'in May 2018'

Feb 24, 2018, 07:07
U.S. to open Jerusalem embassy 'in May 2018'

Mr Trump officially recognised Jerusalem as Israel's capital in December, despite fury from the Palestinians and warnings from Western allies. The date has not yet been confirmed by the White House, but an unnamed USA official told Reuters that the U.S.is expected to open the embassy in May.

The rapid timeline means the US will not immediately build a new embassy in the city, which would take years of planning and require extensive security preparations.

The State Department said the opening will coincide with the 70th anniversary of Israel's founding.

Both Israelis and Palestinians consider Jerusalem to be their capital city.

East Jerusalem is the capital of the State of Palestine, an integral part of the territory occupied by Israel since 1967 He said. And Tillerson had said it could take years.

On the same day, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed the USA announcement as "a great day for the people of Israel". Four unnamed officials told the Associated Press that State Department attorneys were looking into the legality of accepting private donations to help pay for the construction of the new USA government building.

Goldstein said Tillerson had signed the security plan late Thursday (Friday NZ time) for moving the embassy to the current US Consulate facility, a final hurdle for implementing the decision Trump announced in December.

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Israel claims all of Jerusalem as its capital.

Trump also noted that other presidents during their election campaigns promised to make the move but always broke that promise.

The move was further clouded in confusion in January, when Steve Goldstein, the undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs, said plans to build a new embassy in Jerusalem had been abandoned because such construction would be "cost-prohibitive". "There is no greater gift than that!" he said. "Thank you President Trump for your leadership and friendship", it added.

State Department lawyers are studying the legality of the proposal, which Adelson has been discussing with Friedman since a year ago, the official said.

Adelson, a Las Vegas casino magnate, also strongly backs Israel's prime minister, financing a free newspaper friendly to Benjamin Netanyahu.

Trump said many previous presidents had made the move an election promise but failed to fulfill it. "But I get it", he said. That, in turn, could fuel new anger in a region already on edge because of a belief that Trump has made USA policy far more pro-Israel due to political pressures back home.

To enable a May opening, the administration settled on a phased approach to building out the embassy in Jerusalem's Arnona neighborhood at an existing US facility that handles consular affairs like passports and visas.