Washington, DC, USA : The new US Embassy in Jerusalem will open in May 2018 in celebration of Israel’s 70th anniversary, officials said today. US President Donald Trump, Wednesday, December 6th, announced the recognition of Jerusalem as capital of Israel and also gave a directive to the US State Department to begin the process of moving the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, upending decades of U.S. policy.
“We are excited about taking this historic step, and look forward with anticipation to the May opening,” said US State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert in a statement.
Congress was notified of the impending move on Friday shortly before the official announcement was made. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson signed off on the security plan for the new embassy on Thursday.
A ribbon-cutting is being planned for mid-May. Israel proclaimed independence on May 14, 1948. The new U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem is opening in May 2018 to coincide with the 70th anniversary of Israel declaring independence.
The May opening marks a significant acceleration. Vice President Mike Pence had said previously the embassy would open by the end of 2019. And Tillerson had said it could take years.
Initially, the embassy will consist of just a few offices inside an existing U.S. facility in Jerusalem.
“The Embassy will initially be located in Arnona, on a compound that currently houses the consular operations of Consulate General Jerusalem,” he continued. “At least initially, it will consist of the Ambassador and a small team.” the official said.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has long lobbied for it.
Top Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat on Friday said the US administration’s decision to relocate the American Embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in May demonstrates its resolve in violating international law.
Erekat specifically said that moving the US Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem is a violation of United Nations Security Resolution 478.
UN Security Council Resolution 478, which was approved in 1980, calls on states that have established diplomatic missions in Jerusalem to withdraw them.
“The US decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and now to move its embassy on the eve of marking 70 years since the Nakba, the ethnic cleansing of at least 418 Palestinian villages, and the forcible displacement of two thirds of our people, shows the determination of the US administration to violate international law, destroy the two-state solution, and provoke the feelings of the Palestinian people, as well as of all Arabs, Muslims and Christians around the globe,” Erekat said in a statement.
Palestinians refer to Israel’s establishment in 1948 as the Nakba, which means catastrophe in English, when hundreds of thousands of them lost their homes and became refugees.
Nakba Day is annually marked on May 15, the anniversary of Israel’s independence according to the Gregorian Calendar. Israel celebrates its independence day based on the Hebrew calendar. In 2018, Independence Day celebrations are slated to take place on April 18-19.
“I have determined that it is time to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel,” Donald Trump said December 6th. “It is the right thing to do so.”
President Trump stressed that he still seeks peace between the Israelis and Palestinians and reiterated Washington’s commitment to the two-state solution of the Israel-Palestine issue, as part of a lasting peace agreement. He said he signed a waiver delaying the Embassy relocation for six months.
“The US remains deeply committed to helping facilitate a peace agreement that is acceptable to both sides,” he said. “I intend to do everything in my power to help forge such an agreement.”
He said then that Vice President Mike Pence will visit the Middle East to reaffirm US commitment in the region in coming days
Palestinian protesters burnt the U.S. and Israeli flags in Gaza City on Wednesday in protest.
The announcement came even as US allies expressed concerns that the move will scuttle any chance at advancing peace efforts.
Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, called Trump’s remarks a “historic landmark” and urged other countries to follow suit by moving their embassies to Jerusalem. The Israeli prime minister added that any future peace deal with Palestinians must include Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
French President Emmanuel Macron said the US decision to declare Jerusalem the capital of Israel is “regrettable.” Speaking from Algiers, where he is on a diplomatic visit, Macron reiterated calls for the status of Jerusalem to be determined by Israelis and Palestinians through negotiations over a peace settlement.
“This decision is a regrettable decision that France does not approve of and goes against international law and all the resolutions of the UN Security Council,” Macron told reporters at a news conference.
French President Emmanuel Macron’s, call to Trump, stressed that Jerusalem’s status should be resolved as part of a two-state solution that ould result in “Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security with Jerusalem as their capital,” according to a statement put out by France’s Foreign Ministry.
The White House said earlier that Trump’s decision was a “recognition of reality.”
The Vatican issued a statement from Pope Francis urging the status quo for Jerusalem and calling for “wisdom and prudence” to avoid bloodshed.
Jordan’s King Abdullah reportedly told the president that the expected decision will have “dangerous repercussions on the stability and security of the region,” according to a palace statement.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas spokesman, Nabil Abu Rudeina, said in a statement that in a phone call with Trump, Abbas warned against “the dangerous consequences such a decision would have to the peace process and to the peace, security and stability of the region and of the world,” Abbas spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina.
That was a sentiment echoed by Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, who cautioned that it “would undermine the chances of peace in the Middle East.”
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned Trump by name, on Monday, that the move constituted a “red line” for Muslims.
“We could go as far as cutting diplomatic ties with Israel over the issue,” Erdogan said.
The Organization for Islamic Cooperation said such decision from the U.S. would amount to “naked aggression” against Arab and Muslim peoples.
Ahmed Aboul-Gheit, the head of the Arab League, urged the U.S. to reconsider any recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, warning of “repercussions,”.
The Syrian government condemned the White House move, according to state media.
Among Washington’s European allies, the tone was more one of concern.
The U.K. foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, said it was too soon to comment definitively on the expected U.S. move. “Let’s wait and see what the president says exactly, but we view the reports that we’ve heard with concern,” he said.
Meanwhile, Germany’s Foreign Ministry issued a travel warning to its citizens stating: “From December 6, 2017, there may be demonstrations in Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Violent clashes can not be ruled out.”
During the 2016 campaign, Trump promised to allow the embassy to be moved, and on Monday, he allowed a deadline for the next waiver to expire. The actual establishment of a U.S. Embassy compound in Jerusalem would likely take years.
Jerusalem is sacred in Christianity, Islam and Judaism. Disputes there have prompted violence and protests not just in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories but around the Middle East.”
Since 1995, when Congress passed a law ordering the U.S. Embassy to be moved to Jerusalem, successive presidents have issued a series of six-month waivers to forestall the move.
The Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 declared that Jerusalem had been the capital of Israel since 1950 and noted that the city has been administered entirely by Israel since it captured East Jerusalem in the 1967 Six Day War.
It calls for Jerusalem to “remain an undivided city in which the rights of every ethnic and religious group are protected,” for Jerusalem to be recognized as the capital of Israel and for the embassy to be moved by May 31, 1999.
It allows however for the president to sign a waiver every six months to suspend action “to protect the national security interests of the United States.”
Every president since 1995 has regularly done so. When Trump signed the waiver six months ago, he noted his intention to eventually move the embassy and his actions Wednesday begin a process that is expected to take years.
Despite Trump signing a proclamation on Jerusalem’s status as the capital, US officials said he would sign the Jerusalem Embassy Act waiver because financial penalties against the State Department would go into place if the embassy is not yet opened and the waiver has not been signed.
Construction of a new embassy requires stringent security measures and must meet other requirements that will take at least three to four years, if not longer, officials said.
The Arab League and Palestinian Authority earlier said that USA recognizing Jerusalem as Israel capital is ‘Not Justified’.
“Today we say very clearly that taking such action is not justified. It will not serve peace or stability, but will fuel extremism and resort to violence,” Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit said in a statement.
“It only benefits one side; the Israeli government, which is hostile to peace,” Ahmed Aboul Gheit added.
The Palestinian resistance movement Hamas likewise urged Washington to give up on its planned relocation of the US embassy to Jerusalem.
“This would represent a US assault on the city and give legitimacy to [Israel] over the city,” Hamas said in a statement.
The international community does not recognize Israel’s claim to the entire city, largely considering East Jerusalem, including the Old City, to be part of Palestine.
Jerusalem is sacred for the followers of three major religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
At the heart of the dispute is the legal status of East Jerusalem. Israel proclaimed its ownership over East Jerusalem after the Six-Day War Israel fought with Egypt and Syria in in 1967, a move that has not been recognized by the majority of UN states and international organizations.
As the political status of Jerusalem has not been recognized internationally, there are no foreign embassies located in Jerusalem.
Palestinians want to create an independent state on the territories of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, partially occupied by Israel, and the Gaza Strip, and want Israel to withdraw from the Palestinian territories it seized during the Six-Day War.
In 1980, the Israeli Parliament passed the Jerusalem Law declaring Jerusalem the unified capital of Israel. The action has not been recognized by any other country, including the United States.
Israel sees an undivided Jerusalem as its capital while Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state.
One hundred and fifty-one member states in the United Nations General Assembly voted to condemn Israel’s claim to an undivided Jerusalem. The United States was one of just six countries to vote against the resolution. Nine states abstained.
Despite threats from U.S. President Donald Trump, 128 countries in the United Nations General Assembly, UNGA, later voted in favour of a Turkey and Yemen sponsored resolution condemning USA’s Jerusalem decision and only 9 countries opposed it. The resolution asks the United States to withdraw its decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, as the US threatened cuts in retaliation.
Applause erupted in the General Assembly hall as the vote was adopted with 128 countries in favour, nine against and 35 abstentions.
Australia, Canada, Mexico and the Philippines were among those who abstained in the emergency vote called by Turkey and Yemen after the US vetoed the same resolution in the UN Security Council earlier that week.