The famous annual July 4th celebration on the lawn of the U.S. ambassador to Israel's residence – for years, the most coveted invitation in town – is about to become a thing of the past.
The U.S. Embassy has confirmed that the spacious, seafront Herzliya Pituach home that has housed U.S. ambassadors since the 1960s is now listed for sale, part of a symbolic consolidation of the decision to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem.
The asking price for the property, according to the financial daily Globes, is 300 million shekels ($87 million). If sold at the reported price, it would be the most expensive transaction for a private residence in Israel.
“Following the decision to move the Embassy to Jerusalem it made sense to sell the residence in Herzliya,” a U.S. Embassy spokesperson told Haaretz. The spokesperson said that the sale was “expected to move ahead in the coming months,” raising the possibility that a prospective buyer may have already made an offer. The spokesperson, however, did not confirm the reports of a 300 million shekels asking price.
In late 2017, the Trump administration made the controversial decision to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, hailed by the Israeli government and its supporters in the United States but condemned by Palestinians and world leaders.
As soon as the Embassy was inaugurated, U.S. Ambassador David Friedman began dividing his time between the Embassy in Jerusalem and the "branch office" in Tel Aviv (the former embassy). Friedman announced his intention to relocate the ambassador’s official residence, but said the consul-general's residence in Jerusalem had not been approved for that purpose.
The U.S. Embassy spokesperson declined to comment on whether the new official residence would be an existing property or if the government would purchase or construct a new home for ambassadors.
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The last July 4th celebration hosted at the official residence at Galei Tchelet Street took place in 2017. Last year, Friedman held the festivities at the Jerusalem International Convention Center, and in 2018, it was held at an event hall midway between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
The host of the last July 4 party in the seafront property, former U.S. Ambassador Dan Shapiro, told Haaretz that the house had “served the United States well for several decades.” The residence “has played a big part in the story of the close U.S.-Israel relationship,” Shapiro said. “It was also a great home for our family for five years. I hope its future residents will enjoy its charms, and make some effort to take note of the important history that took place there.”
The six-bedroom home, equipped with a swimming pool and hot tub, is built on only a fraction of the 5,000 square meter (1.2 acre) lot.
It is likely that the building will be torn down by its future owner and that a larger, more modern house will be built, one that doesn't need to accommodate the security needs of a U.S. ambassador.