Issues

US ‘to move embassy to Jerusalem on May 14’ — day of Independence Declaration

US ‘to move embassy to Jerusalem on May 14’ — day of Independence Declaration

The US is planning to officially move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem on May 14, 2018 — the 70th anniversary of Israel’s declaration of independence, as well as Washington’s recognition of the Jewish state — Channel 10 and Hadashot news reported Friday.

According to Hadashot the embassy will officially announce the plans later in the day. The report was confirmed to Channel 10 by high-ranking Israeli officials.

The Times of Israel has not confirmed the report.

US officials had previously said the move could take many more months, and perhaps years.

Earlier Friday four US officials told The Associated Press that the Trump administration was considering an offer from Republican mega-donor Sheldon Adelson to pay for at least part of the new embassy.

Lawyers at the State Department are looking into the legality of accepting private donations to cover some or all of the embassy costs, the administration officials said. The discussions are occurring as the new embassy clears its final bureaucratic hurdles.

On Thursday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson ended weeks of delay by signing off on a security plan for moving the embassy from Tel Aviv to the holy city, according to the officials, who weren’t authorized to discuss the issue publicly and demanded anonymity.

In one possible scenario, the administration would solicit contributions not only from Adelson but potentially from other donors in the evangelical and American Jewish communities, too. One official said Adelson, a Las Vegas casino magnate and staunch supporter of Israel, had offered to pay the difference between the total cost — expected to run into the hundreds of millions of dollars — and what the administration is able to raise.

Under any circumstance, letting private citizens cover the costs of an official government building would mark a significant departure from historical US practice. In the Jerusalem case, it would add yet another layer of controversy to Trump’s politically charged decision to move the embassy, given Adelson’s longstanding affiliation with right-wing Israeli politics.

Since Trump’s announcement, his administration has been sifting through options for fast-tracking the Israel embassy’s relocation. Last month, Vice President Mike Pence announced during a visit to Israel that the embassy would move by the end of 2019 — possibly earlier. Ambassador David Friedman, who lobbied for Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, has advocated moving the embassy as soon as possible.

The US has looked at several possible sites. The most likely plan involves a phased approach to opening the embassy in Jerusalem’s Arnona neighborhood at an existing US facility that handles consular affairs like passports and visas. The US could initially retrofit a small suite of offices in that facility to accommodate Friedman and one or two top aides such as his chief of staff.

Read More: Times of Israel