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February 23, 2018 1:02 pm

US Expected to Open Embassy in Jerusalem in May, Official Says

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A view of Jerusalem. Photo: Berthold Werner / Wikimedia Commons.

The United States is expected to move its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in May, an American official told Reuters on Friday.

President Donald Trump announced in December that the US recognized Jerusalem as Israel‘s capital.

A May opening of a Jerusalem embassy appears to represent an earlier time frame than what had been expected. While speaking in the Israeli parliament last month, Vice President Mike Pence said the move of the embassy would take place by the end of 2019.

The opening will coincide with the 70th anniversary of Israel‘s founding, said the American official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

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According to the official, most embassy employees will remain in Tel Aviv.

“Come May, we’re moving the ambassador and a small team to Arnona,” the compound that currently houses the consular operations of the US Consulate General in Jerusalem, the official said.

“What will happen by May, is a sign will be put up in Arnona identifying the facility as the US embassy,” the official added.

Phase two of the plan will include a search for a secure location to build a new embassy, said another official, who also spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Palestinians reacted to the news with anger.

“This is an unacceptable step. Any unilateral move will not give legitimacy to anyone and will be an obstacle to any effort to create peace in the region,” said Nabil Abu Rdainah, a spokesman for the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who is in the US until Saturday.

An Israeli government source said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is scheduled to visit the White House on March 5, is in contact with the Trump administration and will respond when the US makes an announcement.

In a speech on Friday to a gathering of conservatives in suburban Washington, Trump recalled his Jerusalem recognition decision, saying he withstood enormous pressure over it.

“I put the word out that I may do it. I was hit by more countries and more pressure and more people calling, begging me ‘Don’t do it. Don’t do it. Don’t do it,'” Trump said.

“I said we have to do it. It’s the right thing to do. It’s the right thing to do, we have to do it. And I did it.”

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