The United States will open its embassy in the city of Jerusalem this May according to the Trump administration, moving the opening date of the facility up by months, if not years. “In May, the United States plans to open a new U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said. “The opening will coincide with Israel’s 70 anniversary.”
President Trump announced in December that the U.S. would formally recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and would eventually be moving its embassy there. The move drew widespread condemnation from the international community, with global leaders as varied as the heads of the U.K., Russia, China and the Pope all heavily criticizing the move.
Both the Israelis and the Palestinians lay claim to the holy city, and both the city as capitals of their future respective states. Jerusalem has long been considered a “final status” issue in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with any final solution being part of a broader peace agreement.
President Trump sought to mitigate some of the concerns about his declaration by assuring worried parties that any relocation of an embassy would take years. At the time of the announcement the President said he was only directing the State Department to begin planning for an eventual move. Just last month, Vice President Mike Pence, while visiting Israel told the Israeli Knesset that the embassy would be moved “before the end of next year.”
The timetable for the opening seems to have been moved up dramatically.
The Trump administration drastically reduced funding it provides Palestinians when last month it reduced the financial contribution it gives to a U.N. organization that helps Palestinian refugees by $65 million. Palestinian leaders refused to meet with Vice President Mike Pence on his recent trip to the region and dropped out of peace negotiations moderated by the U.S., in protest of the U.S.’ embassy decision, prompting President Trump to cut the aid.
“That money is on the table and that money is not going to them unless they sit down and negotiate peace,” President Trump said last month during a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
The President has said that he is open to negotiating peace between Israel and Palestine but said that the Jerusalem question is now “off the table.”
“Jerusalem is not off the negotiations table; rather, the U.S. is outside the international consensus,” said Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said in a statement in response, according to Israeli news outlet Haaretz. “Those who say that Jerusalem is off the table are saying that peace is off the table. The holy city is in the hearts of each and every Palestinian, Arab, Christian and Muslim, and there will be no peace without East Jerusalem being the sovereign capital of the State of Palestine.”