The United States will open its new Israeli embassy in Jerusalem in May, a spokeswoman announced Friday, delivering earlier than expected on a longstanding yet controversial pledge made by President Donald Trump. Israel has annexed East Jerusalem and declared the entire city as its capital, a move not recognized by the worldwide community. The country declared independence on 14 May 1948, and a ribbon-cutting ceremony is planned at the embassy in mid-May.
Daniel Shapiro, a former US ambassador to Israel under President Obama, agrees that the embassy belongs in Jerusalem but that the Trump administration has failed to give the proper assurances especially to the Palestinians.
"Every president campaigned on, 'We're gonna move the embassy, ' then they never pulled it off", he continued.
US State Department lawyers are reportedly looking into the legality of accepting private donations to cover some of the costs for the relocation of the embassy. "The embassy opening will coincide with Israel's 70th anniversary", AFP quoted a State Department spokesperson as saying on February 23. The embassy will be housed in a building that now contains a consular office, the State Department said.
The Trump administration is accelerating relocation plans of the USA embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. "At least initially, it will consist of the Ambassador and a small team".
Trump's December declaration recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital and announcing plans to relocate the embassy there was met with worldwide condemnation. West Jerusalem is where Israel's government is based.
The date has not yet been confirmed by the White House, but an unnamed US official told Reuters that the U.S.is expected to open the embassy in May.
Erekat warned that the result of the American move would be "the destruction of the two-state option, as well as a blatant provocation to all Arabs and Muslims".
"It will turn Israel's 70th Independence Day into an even greater national celebration", Netanyahu said in a statement posted on Twitter by the Israeli Embassy in Washington.
Both Israel and the Palestinians claim Jerusalem as their historic capital.
Palestinians will see Trump's announcement as the end of their hopes and demands for East Jerusalem as a capital of a future independent state.