After Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last week predicted the U.S. Embassy in Israel would be relocated to Jerusalem within a year, President Donald Trump countered that estimate. The New York Times now reports that the White House is indeed pushing full steam ahead with the embassy’s relocation.

A view of Jerusalem. Credit: Berthold Werner via Wikimedia Commons.

According to the report, the plan is to convert the current U.S. consulate building in Jerusalem’s Arnona neighborhood into the official U.S. embassy. This move would reduce the costs of the project and allow embassy staff to move to the new building as early as 2019.

Speaking with Israeli reporters traveling with him in India on Jan. 17, Netanyahu said it was his “educated guess” that the American embassy move “will happen faster than we think. Within the span of a year.”

Asked about Netanyahu’s remark in an interview with Reuters, President Donald Trump said, “By the end of the year? We’re talking about different scenarios—I mean obviously that would be on a temporary basis. We’re not really looking at that. That’s no.”

But The New York Times reported it was not clear whether Trump had been advised of the new timetable at the time of his comments. Administration officials said Trump had been referring to the construction of a new embassy, not about moving into an existing building.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said last month that the move to a newly constructed embassy would probably occur “no earlier than three years out, and that’s pretty ambitious.” Administration officials have attributed the timeframe to the logistics of finding and securing a site as well as arranging the necessary housing for diplomats.

According to The New York Times, Tillerson’s comments led to tensions with U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, who pressed for the embassy to be relocated by the end of 2018. Tillerson encouraged Trump to postpone the move to allow for the building’s security system to be upgraded.

Planning and construction of a new embassy compound would take up to six years and cost the U.S. between $600 million and $1 billion, according to the State Department. But according to legal experts cited by The New York Times, there is nothing to prevent the U.S. from simply changing the consulate’s status to that of an embassy.

Support Jewish Journalism
with 2020 Vision

One of the most intriguing stories of the sudden Coronavirus crisis is the role of the internet. With individuals forced into home quarantine, most are turning further online for information, education and social interaction.

JNS's influence and readership are growing exponentially, and our positioning sets us apart. Most Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas. JNS is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

During this crisis, JNS continues working overtime. We are being relied upon to tell the story of this crisis as it affects Israel and the global Jewish community, and explain the extraordinary political developments taking place in parallel.

Our ability to thrive in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters. Monthly donations in particular go a long way in helping us sustain our operations. We greatly appreciate any contributions you can make during these challenging times. We thank you for your ongoing support and wish you blessings for good health and peace of mind.