architectural model of the proposed U.S. Embassy to be constructed in Jerusalem

U.S. To Make Controversial Embassy Move To Jerusalem

By Lynda Bryant-Work

U.S. set to move embassy to Jerusalem

A newly chiseled stone plaque on the wall marks the building where the United States plans to move its embassy to Jerusalem on May 14.  The date coincides with Israel’s proclamation of independence in the spring of 1948.

On Dec. 6, 2017, President Donald Trump formally announced the United States recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, reversing nearly seven decades of American foreign policy, and ordered the planning of the relocation of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, though hours after ordering preparations, he signed a six-month delay.

Stone Plaque photo
The new stone plaque at the temporary site of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem.

Then in early 2018, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson approved a security plan for “a facility” in Jerusalem, keeping in mind the safety of the Marines and other people who will visit and work there.  About $400,000 in renovations has been underway.

The embassy is to be located in a building that houses the U.S. Consulate General to Jerusalem, in the Arnona neighborhood of the city, according to the State Department.  Consular operations will continue there, and U.S. Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, will work there with a small staff.

Vice President Pence told the Israeli Parliament a new embassy annex is set to be opened by the end of 2019 with more space for the ambassador and his team, while planning and construction for a permanent embassy in Jerusalem proceeds.

The current embassy building in Tel Aviv will be renamed the U.S. Consulate, and will continue to house the bulk of the U.S. diplomatic staff in Israel, according to the plan.

Trump’s controversial decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and begin the process of moving the U.S. Embassy to West Jerusalem is where Israel’s government is based was viewed unfavorably by the Palestinians without their approval, as well the Turkish leader.

The Palestinians view East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state.  For that reason, every U.S. president since Israel’s founding in 1948 has located the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv.

The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) secretary general Saeb Erekat said, “The move shows the determination of the U.S. administration to violate international law and 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 added the decision disqualifies Trump and the U.S. from being part of a “solution between Israelis and Palestinians, rather, the world now sees that they are part of the problem.”

another view of the architectural modeling / rendering of the proposed facilities of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem
another view of the architectural modeling / rendering of the proposed facilities of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan described the decision to move the office as a “huge mistake,” saying there is “nothing to gain” by the move and urged the US to reverse the decision while there was still time to do so.

Though the move has been delayed for years, Jerusalem was recognized as the capital of the State of Israel when the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1955 became public law of the United States, passed by the 104th Congress on Oct. 23, 1995. The law was adopted by the Senate (93-5) and by the House (374-37). The Act became law without a presidential signature on Nov. 8, 1995.

Embassy Sign photo
A worker hangs a road sign directing to the U.S. embassy, in the area of the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem.

The Act not only recognized Jerusalem as the capital but called for the city to remain undivided.  Its purpose was to set aside funds for the relocation of the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem by May 31, 1999.

Despite passage, the law allowed the president to invoke a six-month waiver of the application of the law and reissue the waiver every six months on “national security” grounds.  The waiver was repeatedly invoked by Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama.  Trump signed a waiver in June 2017.

The international recognition of Israel refers to its diplomatic recognition as a state was established by the Israeli Declaration of Independence on May 14, 1948. Aside from the U.S., out of the 192 other United Nations member states, 161 currently recognize Israel. 

The Soviet Union was the first country to recognize Israel de jure on May 17, 1948, followed by Nicaragua, Czechoslovakia, Serbia, and Poland. The United States extended de jure recognition after the first Israeli election on Jan. 1949.

By the late 1960s, Israel had established diplomatic relations with almost all countries of Western Europe, North and South America, as well as much of Africa.

The 31 United Nations member states that do not recognize Israel, include 18 members of the Arab League (Algeria, Bahrain, Comoros, Djibouti, Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen).  Ten are members of Organization of Islamic Cooperation (Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Brunei, Chad, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Mali, Niger, and Pakistan). Other countries include Bhutan, Cuba and North Korea.

On June 5, 2017, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed a resolution commemorating the 50th anniversary of reunification of Jerusalem by 90-0. The resolution reaffirmed the Jerusalem Embassy Act and called upon the president and all United States officials to abide by its provisions.

Trump’s Jerusalem announcement fulfilled a campaign promise and upended decades of U.S. foreign policy over the contested city.

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