WASHINGTON – The US State Department confirmed on Friday that it plans to inaugurate its new embassy in Jerusalem next May, coinciding with celebrations for the 70th anniversary of the Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel.
“In May, the United States plans to open a new U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem. The opening will coincide with Israel’s 70th anniversary,” the State Department said in a statement.
At first, the diplomatic mission will be made up of the US ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, “and a small staff,” the statement indicated.
The new delegation will be located in the same building that at present houses consular operations of the US Consulate in the Arnona neighborhood, chosen by Washington 30 years ago as the possible seat of its diplomacy in Israel.
However, this will be only a temporary solution since, according to the State Department statement, Washington’s intention is to set up, by the end of next year, a new embassy annex “on the Arnona compound that will provide the Ambassador and his team with expanded interim office space.”
“In parallel, we have started the search for a site for our permanent Embassy to Israel, the planning and construction of which will be a longer-term undertaking,” the statement added.
The announcement signifies a notable reduction in the time needed to carry out this controversial project set in motion by President Donald Trump last December, when he ordered the US Embassy moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
At that time, the White House said the move could take at least three or four years.
On a trip to Israel late last January, US Vice President Mike Pence said before the Knesset (Israeli legislature) that the move to Jerusalem would be completed by the end of 2019.
Arab countries are not happy about the move, however, and many countries have asked the US president to reconsider.
But Trump’s response has been to double down on his plan, and in a speech this Friday at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), he bragged about moving to Jerusalem even though, as he said, other countries had begged him “Don’t do it, don’t do it.”