US ambassador to Israel could ‘live and work in Jerusalem’ while embassy remains in Tel Aviv, US official says

Sources say compromise possible on president-elect Donald Trump’s controversial campaign pledge to move US embassy to city contested by both Israelis and Palestinians

Wednesday 11 January 2017 12:19 GMT
The current US Embassy to Israel is located in Tel Aviv
The current US Embassy to Israel is located in Tel Aviv (Wikimedia Commons)

US officials and Israeli Foreign Ministry sources have said that the incoming US ambassador to Israel could be based in Jerusalem, while the official embassy building remains in Tel Aviv.

Incoming President-elect Donald Trump and his administration have repeatedly said that the new president intends to make good on the campaign trail promise to relocate the US Embassy to the country to Jerusalem.

Israel annexed east Jerusalem in a move not recognised by the international community in the 1967 Six Day War, and both the Israelis and Palestinians claim the city as their capital.

Almost all countries’ diplomatic missions to Israel are located in Tel Aviv. The proposed move has been strongly criticised by Palestinian Authority officials including President Mahmoud Abbas, liberal Israeli groups, and the US’ allies throughout the Arab and wider world.

Most have warned the move would be damaging to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, and could spark further violence.

On Tuesday, Israeli and American media reported that new US ambassador to the country David Friedman could be based in Jerusalem, living and working in the existing smaller US consulate there, while the official embassy complex continues to be located in Tel Aviv.

US officials speaking on condition of anonymity told CNN one option would simply be to “switch the signs” on the existing buildings, although the number of additional staff needed would mean the Jerusalem operation would have to be expanded.

The US government already owns part of a property in the west of the city that could serve as a home to a future embassy there.

Israeli TV station Channel 2 reported the same thing, citing Israeli Foreign Ministry officials, who again spoke anonymously so they could talk freely.

It is speculated that any potential move could be announced before May 24, a national holiday celebrated as Jerusalem Day’ in Israel.

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