U.S. Embassy Move to Jerusalem: Everything You Need to Know

Will the embassy be fully functioning immediately? How will the Palestinians react? What happens to the embassy in Tel Aviv? All answered here

Amir Tibon
Noa Landau
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A new road sign indicating the way to the new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem is seen on May 7, 2018.
A new road sign indicating the way to the new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem is seen on May 7, 2018.Credit: THOMAS COEX/AFP
Amir Tibon
Noa Landau

WASHINGTON – The Trump administration is holding a ceremony in Jerusalem on Monday to mark the opening of the U.S. Embassy in the city. Haaretz has compiled all the details you need to know – from the exact timing of the event to the current list of distinguished guests.

When is it happening?

The event takes place on Monday, May 14 at 4 P.M. Jerusalem time (9 A.M. Washington time). Official invitations have already been sent by the American Embassy in Israel, from its current location in Tel Aviv.

What is the event about?

Officially, the event is held in honor of the U.S. Embassy's relocation from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. However, it should be noted that the entire embassy isn't being moved to Jerusalem over one day. The Trump administration decided last December to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital and to begin the process of moving the embassy there. This process could take years, since the construction of the new embassy will be a lengthy and expensive project.

Initially, only a limited number of offices will be moved from the embassy in Tel Aviv to the new location in Jerusalem. These offices will include the office of the U.S. ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, who will begin working from Jerusalem on a regular basis. However, many other functions of the embassy will remain in Tel Aviv, at the building housing the current embassy on Hayarkon Street. For the Israeli government, even this preliminary move is considered a major diplomatic achievement, mainly for its symbolic significance.

Jared Kunsher, Ivanka Trump and Steven Mnuchin land in Israel for Jerusalem embassy opening.

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Where will the embassy be located?

While there is still an open question on where the permanent American Embassy in Jerusalem will be built, the dedication ceremony on Monday will happen at the U.S. Consulate in Arnona, a neighborhood in the southern part of the city. The existing consulate building, which has been serving Israeli citizens since 2010, will host the ambassador's office and the other offices to be moved to Jerusalem initially. It is partially located within the no-man's-land that constituted the border between Israel and Jordan before 1967.

Who will attend the event?

From the Israeli side, the highest-ranking officials expected to attend are President Reuven Rivlin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Other government ministers, and leaders of political parties from both the opposition and the coalition, will also probably take part in the celebration.

From the Trump administration, the highest-ranking official currently expected to attend is Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. The White House said that Ivanka Trump, the president's daughter, and her husband, Jared Kushner, a senior adviser to the president, will also attend.

A large delegation of members of Congress from both parties is also expected to attend.

What is the Palestinian reaction to the embassy move?

The Palestinian Authority has strongly denounced the Trump administration's decision on Jerusalem, and has refused to engage with it ever since the president's speech last December. Public opinion polls have shown that the embassy move is unpopular on the Palestinian street, and has led to accusations that the Trump administration is biased toward Israel, and therefore cannot be trusted as an "honest broker" in peace talks between the two sides.

Other Arab nations have also criticized Trump's move, and the Arab League published a joint statement emphasizing that East Jerusalem should become the capital of Palestine. However, most Arab countries didn't express as strong a criticism of the administration as the Palestinians, and none of those countries cut its ties with the administration. Jordan, which is considered the custodian of the holy Islamic sites in Jerusalem, denounced the move, but later stated that it still believes the United States should have a leading role in peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

A partial view taken April 30, 2018 shows excavators working near the U.S. consulate situated in the no man's land between West and East Jerusalem, which will be used as a temporary new U.S. Embassy.Credit: THOMAS COEXAFP

Will the Trump administration "compensate" the Palestinians for the move?

A number of recent press reports have indicated that the embassy move will be followed by the publication of the Trump administration's plan for Israeli-Palestinian peace, which will allegedly include some "sweeteners" for the Palestinian side. None of these reports were confirmed by the administration (most were actually denied or deemed as false). There is no concrete indication that the peace plan the administration is working on will be published in the immediate future, or that it will indeed include any details that the Palestinian leadership and public will view as favorable.

Could the ceremony lead to violence?

For the last six weeks, there have been deadly confrontations on Israel's border with Gaza, which is not directly related to the embassy move but could arguably have been affected by it. The violence has so far not spread to East Jerusalem and the West Bank, and one main concern among Israeli security officials is that the situation in Gaza, combined with the embassy move, could lead to violence in these territories. So far, the clashes on the border have left dozens of Palestinians dead and hundreds wounded.

However, it is impossible to predict what will happen. Before Trump's speech on Jerusalem in December, there were warnings that it would be followed by massive violence. But that did not happen. After Trump's announcement, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said that relocating the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem "will come at a price," but added that it was a price "worth paying."

What did Trump say on the subject more recently?

Trump discussed the embassy move in a joint meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel last month. He said the original plan for building an entirely new embassy in Jerusalem would have cost $1 billion, but that his ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, told him it was possible to move the embassy to the existing consulate building in Arnona for a much lower price – perhaps as low as $150,000. Trump added that he eventually "settled" for investing somewhere between $300,000 to $400,000 in the move.

Are there any other embassies in Jerusalem?

Many countries have consulates located in Jerusalem, but up until last month no country had had its embassy in the city for more than a decade. But Trump's speech last December led at least one country, Guatemala, to move its embassy to Jerusalem. It should be noted that Guatemala had an embassy in the city in the past, but it moved that embassy to Tel Aviv in 2006. Honduras has announced it will also move its embassy, which was previously located in Jerusalem, back to the city. Paraguay is the latest country to announce it will move its embassy to Jerusalem. Other countries have expressed openness toward such a move, but have not officially authorized or announced it.

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