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Israeli Leaders Hail U.S. Plan to Move Embassy to Jerusalem on Israel’s Independence Day

The United States State Department has announced that it will officially move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem in May, to coincide with the 70th anniversary of Israel’s independence.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on 22 February that Ambassador David Friedman and a small group of staff will work in an existing U.S. consulate building in Jerusalem’s Arnona neighbourhood. The facility will function as the official embassy while arrangements are made to find a permanent location. Arnona is in West Jerusalem, close to the pre-1967 green line.

“By the end of next year, we intend to open a new embassy Jerusalem annex on the Arnona compound that will provide the Ambassador and his team with expanded interim office space,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement . “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.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the plan at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting yesterday: “This is a great moment for the citizens of Israel and this is an historic moment for the State of Israel,” he said.

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat thanked U.S. President Donald Trump for “fulfilling your promise to bring the U.S. embassy home to Jerusalem, the eternal, united capital of the Jewish people. This is recognition of Jerusalem not just in words, but in deeds.”

Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) Executive Committee Secretary General Saeb Erekat denounced the U.S. decision, calling it a “flagrant violation of international law and the agreements between the Palestinian Authority and Israel … and it had destroyed the two-state solution.” Erekat added that the decision to move the embassy on “Nakba Day” of all days, which is considered a catastrophic day for the Palestinian people, was a provocation to the sensibilities of all Arabs and Muslims.

The cost of building the embassy is estimated to be around half a billion dollars, and the State Department said that it was examining a number of options to finance the new embassy building.

In related news, U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said that Trump’s peace plan was nearly finished and ready. Speaking at the University of Chicago’s Institute of Politics, the Ambassador said that the plan “won’t be loved by either side, and it won’t be hated by either side.”

(via BICOM)

[Photo: BICOM]