WATCH: VP Mike Pence Announces that U.S. Will Move Embassy to Jerusalem by End of 2019

United States Vice President Mike Pence announced on Monday that the United States will relocate its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem before the end of 2019, ahead of schedule, honoring a bipartisan commitment made over 20 years ago, enshrined in the Jerusalem Embassy Relocation Act of 1995.

“In the weeks ahead, our administration will advance its plan to open the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem — and that the United States embassy will open before the end of next year,” Pence said in an address to the Knesset, Israel’s parliament. “By finally recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the United States has chosen fact over fiction — and fact is the only true foundation for a just and lasting peace.”

The Vice President “strongly” urged the Palestinians to return to the negotiating table, saying that “peace can only come through dialogue.” In an interview with the Associated Press, he said the “door’s open” for the Palestinians to return to the negotiating table with Israel on a peace agreement.

The Palestinian leadership, meanwhile, has responded in anger to the speech. Pence’s announcement, they said, was a “gift to extremists.” Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, stated the Vice President “has proven that the U.S. administration is part of the problem rather than the solution.”

For over 20 years, the endeavor to move the U.S. embassy has been a bipartisan effort, supported by both Democrats and Republicans. Senator Charles Schumer, the Senate Democratic leader, renewed his call for relocation in October 2017. “Moving the embassy as soon as possible would appropriately commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of Jerusalem’s reunification and show the world that the U.S. definitively acknowledges Jerusalem as Israel’s capital,” he said.

Democratic Senator Robert Menendez (D – N.J.), a senior member of the senate Foreign Relations Committee, observed in December 2017: “I welcome the announcement from the President affirming established U.S. law that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and that the Embassy of the United States should reside in the capital. I have always supported moving the United States Embassy to Jerusalem, and have always said it is not a matter of “if” but “when”.

According to reports, the State Department has accepted a plan that will not result in the construction of a new building, but a conversion of the existing consular building in the Arnona neighborhood of Jerusalem.

The Arnona neighborhood is located in territory that was no-man’s land between Israeli- and Jordanian lines from 1948-1967. Today, Arnona is situated between the Jewish neighborhoods of Talpiot and Ramat Rachel.

The United States already has a large diplomatic presence in Jerusalem, with at least three locations fully operational: a consular office in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem; another on Agron Street in West Jerusalem, near the Great Synagogue not far from the Prime Minister’s official residence; and a third, new building, in the suburb of Arnona.

[Photo: Vice President Mike Pence / Facebook]