What started as a far-flung campaign promise from President Trump is, quite extraordinarily, about to come to fruition — the U.S. Embassy is relocating from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Interested parties grew increasingly excited last year after Trump publicly recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, marking a break from decades of presidential rhetoric on the matter. Now, road signs have been erected all over the historic city, indicating that the wheels are set in motion for the momentous relocation.
Jerusalem’s Mayor, Nir Barkat, took to Twitter to declare his delight at the move. He even helped put up a few of the new road signs himself.
“This is not a dream — it’s reality!” he wrote. “This morning, I installed the signs for the new
#USembassy in Jerusalem. Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the Jewish people — and the world is beginning to recognize this fact! Thank you @POTUS!”
Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the Jewish people – and the world is beginning to recognize this fact!
— Mayor Nir Barkat (@NirBarkat) May 7, 2018
So how will this move go about?
According to Reuters, the initial move will entail the installation of a small interim embassy that will operate from the building in southern Jerusalem that is now hosting U.S. consular operations. This will act as a stop-gap while a suitably secure site is found to relocate the entire American diplomatic apparatus from Tel Aviv.
On May 14, the Trump administration will hold a ceremony to mark the grand opening of the new embassy. There is speculation that President Trump himself might make a surprise appearance, although many Israeli news outlets are reporting that his daughter, Ivanka, will attend instead.
According to the Times of Israel, Trump said at an April 27 press conference alongside German Chancellor Angela Merkel that he “may go.” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will also attend the event.
— Yosef Yisrael (@yosefyisrael25) May 7, 2018
The U.S. is certainly setting a trend by choosing to relocate its diplomatic activities to the historic city. In April, Netanyahu stated that “at least half a dozen” countries were now “seriously discussing” following suit and shifting their operations to Jerusalem.
“The embassy in Jerusalem has been promised for many, many years by presidents,” Trump said at the press conference with Merkel. “They all made campaign promises and they never had the courage to carry it out. I carried it out.”
Trump added that the embassy “is going to be beautiful.”
It goes without saying that the Palestinian community is wildly unhappy about the embassy move. The last series of peace talks on a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip collapsed in 2014.
“This (embassy) move is not only illegal but will also thwart the achievement of a just and lasting peace between two sovereign and democratic states on the 1967 borders, Israel and Palestine living side by side in peace and security,” Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said in a statement, as reported by Christian Today.
But far from shutting the door on Palestinian interest, the Trump Administration has sought to offer up something of an olive branch ahead of the move.
“By recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and the seat of its government, we’re recognizing reality,” U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stated during his visit to Israel last week. “I also stress, as President Trump has said in December, the boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem remain subject to negotiations between the parties, and we remain committed to achieving a lasting and comprehensive peace that offers a brighter future for both Israel and the Palestinians.”
In December, some 128 countries voted in a non-binding U.N. General Assembly resolution urging the United States to reverse its decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
This was met with a stinging reply from U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley:
“The fact that this veto is being done in defense of American sovereignty and in defense of America’s role in the Middle East peace process is not a source of embarrassment for us,” she bellowed. “It should be an embarrassment to the remainder of the Security Council.”