USA confirms Jerusalem embassy opening in May

by Olga Hunt February 24, 2018, 7:05
USA confirms Jerusalem embassy opening in May

Steven Goldstein, the undersecretary for public affairs, said State Department attorneys were looking at the legality of such a gift but that no formal talks about it had taken place.

For his part reacting to the United States decision to move its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in May, Nabil Abu Rudeineh, spokesman for President Mahmoud Abbas, said that any unilateral step does not contribute to peace and does not give legitimacy for anyone.

"The additional staff will be transferred from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem over time, but there's also still the outstanding matter of trying to find a location to build a permanent embassy". The most likely plan involves opening the embassy in Jerusalem's Arnona neighborhood at an existing USA facility that already handles consular affairs like passports and visas.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the announcement in a statement, saying it would, "turn Israel's 70th Independence Day into an even greater national celebration".

Mr Trump today vowed to ignore critics who claimed "we can't do this" and will instead go ahead with the controversial embassy move this spring.

This latest timeline suggests the effort to settle officials into the temporary facility are being expedited.

Trump's December declaration recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital and announcing plans to relocate the embassy there was met with worldwide condemnation.

Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, Secretary-General of the Palestinian National Initiative, said that Trump's decision to move US Embassy to Jerusalem on the 70th anniversary of the Nakba is a provocation to the feelings of every Palestinian.

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Jerusalem, a 6,000-year-old city, was divided for 19 years, from the date of Israel's 1948 founding until the war of 1967, when Israel seized the eastern half of the city from Jordan.

Last month, US Vice-President Mike Pence told the Israeli parliament that the move would occur sometime before the end of 2019. Trump's proposed 2019 budget significantly cut funding for protection of United States diplomatic facilities overseas.

The officials weren't authorized to discuss the issue publicly and demanded anonymity.

While agency lawyers are considering the matter, both officials said they didn't expect it to go anywhere.

One factor complicating the construction of an actual new embassy in Jerusalem involves the Trump administration's apparent interest in financing a lavish new facility by supplementing public funds with private donations, mostly from "donors in the evangelical Christian and American Jewish communities", according to the Associated Press.

"The American administration's decisions to recognize Jerusalem al-Quds as Israel's capital and choose the Palestinian people's Nakba as the date for this step is a blatant violation of global law", AFP quoted Saeb Erekat as saying.

There are also new signs that the embassy move could happen far faster than had been thought.

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