The United States plans to move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem on May 14, Steven Goldstein, undersecretary of State for public diplomacy said Friday.
The date coincides with when Israel proclaimed independence in 1948.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson approved a security plan for “a facility” in Jerusalem Thursday evening, Goldstein said. “We’re looking at that as a possible date but safety of the Marines and other people who visit and work there is primary.”
The embassy will be located in a building that houses the U.S. Consulate General Jerusalem, in the Arnona neighborhood of the city, according a State Department statement. Consular operations will continue there, and U.S. ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, will work there with a small staff.
A new embassy annex will open by the end of 2019 with more space for the ambassador and his team, while planning and construction for a permanent embassy in Jerusalem proceed, the statement said.
The current embassy building in Tel Aviv will be renamed the U.S. consulate, and will continue to house the bulk of the U.S. diplomatic staff in Israel, according to this plan.
Vice President Pence told the Israeli Parliament last month that a new U.S. Embassy to Israel would open in Jerusalem before the end of 2019.
Trump announced in December the controversial decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and begin the process of moving the U.S. Embassy there. West Jerusalem is where Israel’s government is based. Palestinians view East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state. For that reason, every U.S. president since Israel’s founding in 1948 has located the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv.
Majdi Khladi, diplomatic advisor to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, was quick to criticize the plan.
“What is important here is that without the approval of the Palestinians and specifically President Abbas, there is not going to be anything happening here. We know the Americans are coordinating every step with (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu, but they do not do the same with President Abbas,” Khladi said Friday. “In the end this is not good for peace, and no good for themselves, their own standing.”
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SOURCE: USA Today, Oren Dorell and Noga Tarnopolsky