The U.S. plans to move its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem on May 14, according to published reports. The move was originally expected to take place sometime before the end of 2019.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson approved a security plan for an existing facility in Jerusalem Thursday evening, said Steven Goldstein, undersecretary of state for public diplomacy, according to a report in USA Today.
“We’re looking at that as a possible date but safety of the Marines and other people who visit and work there is primary,” he said.
Where will the embassy be housed?
The U.S. is considering several possible locations, USA Today reported.
Most likely, the embassy will open in Jerusalem’s Arnona neighborhood at an existing facility that caters to passports and visas, the report said.
Initially, a small suite of offices could be retrofitted to accommodate U.S. Ambassador David Friedman and top aides, including his chief of staff.
The current embassy building in Tel Aviv will be renamed as a U.S. consulate and will continue to house most of the U.S. diplomatic staff in Israel, until the new embassy is completed, according to the report.
The Arnona facility would be expanded over time to house the entire embassy staff. A full expansion of the site requires utilizing property that currently houses a senior citizen home. Over the next few years, the U.S. will take control of the property under a previous arrangement, the report stated.
In December, President Donald Trump sparked controversy by announcing the U.S. embassy will move to Jerusalem, according to published reports. Israel’s government is based in West Jerusalem.
In January, Vice President Mike Pence said during a visit to Israel that the embassy would move by the end of 2019 or earlier.
How much will it cost?
Expanding the embassy into a full-fledged site for America’s diplomatic staff in Israel is estimated to cost more than $500 million dollars, the report said. Part of reason for the hefty price tag is the security requirements for embassies.
Las Vegas casino mogul Sheldon Adelson has offered to donate toward the cost of opening the new location, USA Today reported. State Department attorneys are examining if it’s legal to accept private donations “for some or all of the embassy costs.”
Adelson, a staunch supporter of Israel, offered to pay the difference between the total cost — and whatever the administration can raise.