The State Department confirmed the timing of the move, with an official telling The Times of Israel: “We are planning to open the new US Embassy to Israel in Jerusalem in May. The Embassy opening will coincide with Israel’s 70th anniversary.”
The official said, “The Embassy will initially be located in Arnona [in south Jerusalem], on a compound that currently houses the consular operations of Consulate General Jerusalem. At least initially, it will consist of the Ambassador and a small team.”
A ribbon-cutting ceremony is being planned for mid-May. Israel proclaimed independence on May 14, 1948. According to Channel 10 and Hadashot news, the ceremony could be held on May 14 to honor that date. (Israel celebrates its anniversary of independence according to the Hebrew calendar; Independence Day — Yom Ha’Atzmaut — falls on April 19 this year.)
Channel 10 quoted aides to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyhau saying he had not pressed for this accelerated process. The TV report noted, however, that a festive ribbon-cutting ceremony at a US embassy in Jerusalem in less than three months, as he battles corruption allegations, is well-timed from his perspective
The US will initially retrofit a small suite of offices in the facility to accommodate Friedman, and key aides, while Friedman will still also maintain an office at the current embassy in Tel Aviv, which would henceforth be considered a branch of the Jerusalem embassy, Channel 10 said. Jerusalem consular staff will continue to provide consular services such as issuing passports and visas at the building. (The US Consulate on Jerusalem’s Agron Street, which is responsible for Palestinian areas, will continue to function as before.)
Since Trump’s announcement on December 6 that the US recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and planned to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to the holy city, his administration has been sifting through options for fast-tracking the relocation. Last month, Pence announced during a visit to Israel that the embassy would move by the end of 2019 — possibly earlier. Ambassador Friedman, who lobbied for Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, has advocated moving the embassy as soon as possible.
PLO Secretary-General Saeb Erekat dubbed the decision announced earlier Friday a “flagrant violation of international law and agreements” signed between the Palestinians and Israel. The decision will “destroy” the two-state solution, he cautioned.
The State Department confirmed Friday afternoon: “We are planning to open the new U.S. Embassy to Israel in Jerusalem in May. The Embassy opening will coincide with Israel’s 70th anniversary.” US President Donald Trump stressed Friday that foreign countries begged him, “Don’t do it, don’t do it,” but that it was “the right thing to do.”
Nakba (“catastrophe” in Arabic) is the word used by Palestinians to describe the establishment of Israel in 1948. The US is set to redesignate its Arnona consular facility in southern Jerusalem as its embassy on May 14 — precisely 70 years after Israel declared independence. (Israel celebrates its anniversary of independence according to the Hebrew calendar; Independence Day — Yom Ha’Atzmaut — falls on April 19 this year.)
“We condemn this decision in the strongest possible terms,” Erekat added. “This decision affirms that the US administration has removed itself from playing any sponsorship role in the peace process. Because of such decisions, the US has become part of the problem and therefore can’t be part of any solution.”
Nabil Abu Rudeineh, spokesperson for the PA presidency in Ramallah, said “Any step that is not consistent with international legitimacy would obstruct any effort to achieve a settlement in the region. It will also create harmful and negative climates.”