U.S. Presses to Relocate Embassy to Jerusalem by 2019

The timing of the move has caused tensions between Mr. Tillerson and the White House. Mr. Friedman, who worked as a lawyer for Mr. Trump, pushed to move the embassy this year, and Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, who oversees the president’s Middle East peace initiative, backed him.

But Mr. Tillerson petitioned Mr. Trump in a meeting on Thursday for more time to upgrade the security of the building, and the president agreed. “What you’ll see from the secretary is that we will do this at the pace of security, not at the pace of politics,” said the under secretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs, Steven Goldstein.

The Arnona building sits very near the Green Line, which served as the de facto border of the state of Israel from 1949 until the Arab-Israeli War of 1967. While the building, which now issues visas and offers consular services to American citizens, would need to be retrofitted for the ambassador to conduct classified operations, it is a fairly new structure with better physical security than the embassy in Tel Aviv.

The timetable for moving the embassy became a charged footnote to Mr. Trump’s landmark decision. When the president signed a proclamation in December recognizing Jerusalem as the capital, he quietly signed another document waiving a congressional demand that the United States move the embassy to Jerusalem within six months.

At the time, White House officials said the decision was driven by practical and logistical decisions. The State Department, they said, could not open a functioning embassy in Jerusalem on the timetable stipulated under a 1995 law that requires the president to sign a national security waiver every six months to keep the embassy in Tel Aviv.

Scouting a site, commissioning a design, and building the embassy compound could take up to six years, according to State Department officials, and cost between $600 million and $1 billion.

Legal experts, however, said there was nothing in the 1995 law that would prevent the United States from hanging a placard outside the existing consulate in Jerusalem and calling it the embassy.

After the fall of the Soviet Union, the United States hastily set up embassies in temporary quarters in the capitals of newly independent republics. American ambassadors have sometimes shuttled between offices in countries like Myanmar, which built new capital cities.

But putting off the move also had diplomatic advantages for a White House eager to keep alive the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians. It avoided creating a tangible symbol of Mr. Trump’s new policy and spared the White House a series of decisions — like where in the city to place the embassy — that would begin to define the geography of the president’s deliberately general statement about Jerusalem.

Since Mr. Trump’s announcement, however, relations between the United States and the Palestinians have curdled. The Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, vowed never again to take part in peace negotiations brokered by the United States. In a speech to Palestinian officials, he said of Mr. Trump, “may your house be destroyed.”

The administration, in turn, said it would withhold $65 million — or more than half the funding that the United States generally provides — to a United Nations agency that aids Palestinian refugees.

Continue reading the main story

Source link