By Mark Ellis —
The controversial move of the US Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem will take place faster than anyone thought possible – very likely to coincide with the 70th anniversary of Israel declaring independence in May.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson approved the security plan for the new embassy on February 22nd and Congress is currently being notified, two Trump administration officials told the Times of Israel.
The State Department verified the report, with an official telling The Times of Israel: “We are planning to open the new US Embassy to Israel in Jerusalem in May. The Embassy opening will coincide with Israel’s 70th anniversary.”
“The Embassy will initially be located in Arnona [in south Jerusalem], on a compound that currently houses the consular operations of Consulate General Jerusalem. At least initially, it will consist of the Ambassador and a small team,” the official stated.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony is being planned for mid-May. Israel declared independence on May 14, 1948. A ceremony may be held on May 14 to honor that date, according to Israeli news sources.
The lightning-fast move represents a major change in what was announced previously. Vice President Pence had said the embassy would open by the end of 2019 and Secretary Tillerson said it might take years.
But President Trump is known to favor delivering on his promises ahead of schedule, to disarm and often infuriate his critics.
Some see the embassy move as largely symbolic, since the full relocation may take longer. “Most of the embassy staff could continue to operate from Tel Aviv during the early stages,” according to the Times of Israel.
The Trump administration is contemplating an offer from Republican mega-donor Sheldon Adelson to pay for a portion of the new embassy, four US officials told The Associated Press.
The existing consulate in Jerusalem’s Arnona neighborhood mostly handles passports and visas. It is thought the US may remodel several offices there to house Ambassador David Friedman and several aides.
The rest of the staff would stay in Tel Aviv and gradually transition to the new location, according to the Times of Israel.