US embassy will move to Jerusalem in May, State Department says

Following through on Donald Trump's controversial decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital

Jeremy B. White
San Francisco
Friday 23 February 2018 20:37 GMT
Trump: 'Jerusalem was the right thing to do, we took that off the table'

The United States aims to open a Jerusalem embassy in May, the State Department said, cementing details of one of Donald Trump’s most controversial foreign policy decisions.

The planned opening is intended to coincide with the 70th anniversary of Israel’s independence and would come earlier than administration officials had previously suggested, with Vice President Mike Pence saying in January the move would likely occur in 2019. The embassy will be housed in a building that currently contains a consular office, the State Department said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lauded the move, saying in a statement that it would “turn Israel's 70th Independence Day into an even greater national celebration”.

“Thank you, President Trump, for your leadership and friendship,” Mr Netanyahu said.

A search is underway for a site that could host a permanent Embassy, the State Department said, noting in a press release that constructing a new building would be a “longer-term undertaking”. The Trump administration is exploring the possibility of influential Republican donor Sheldon Adelson helping to pay for at least part of the Jerusalem embassy's construction, according to unnamed officials who spoke with the Associated Press

The decision carried brought geopolitical implications, drawing angry protests from Palestinian leaders who said America had undercut the peace process and forfeited its role as a neutral mediator. The United Nations overwhelmingly passed a resolution condemning the move.

Administration officials have continued to spar with Palestinian leadership, with Mr Trump threatening to withhold aid.

On the same day as the Embassy announcement, the President said that “we’re actually making great headway” on forging peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians, saying taking Jerusalem “off the table” was the “right thing to do” and praising the work of his son-in-law Jared Kushner, who is tasked with overseeing negotiations

“He’s an extraordinary dealmaker, and if he does that that will be an incredible accomplishment and a very important thing for our country”, Mr Trump said of Mr Kushner.

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