Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to invite Donald Trump to Jerusalem for the inauguration of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem for Israel’s Independence Day celebrations. May 14 will be the 70-year anniversary of the establishment of the nation of Israel. In January 2018, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence visited Israel and iterated that the U.S. would not open the controversial embassy in Jerusalem until the end of 2019. The expeditious change of plans to expediently make the embassy move has drawn praise from Israeli government officials and drawn the ire of Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) officials.
The Jerusalem Post speculated several reasons for the hasty move to open the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem a lot sooner than expected. Herb Keinon weighed the decision based upon Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s legal troubles, the PLO’s very vocal discontent with the U.S. government, and good logistics. Keinon wrote in the Jerusalem Post, “the decision to make the move now is just the result of looking at the options and realize [sic] that it is possible to make the move much earlier – if done in stages – than originally anticipated.”
Prime Minister Netanyahu took to his social media platforms on Saturday to praise and laud the decision of the Trump administration to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem on May 14.
Netanyahu stated, “This is a great moment for the State of Israel. President Trump’s decision to move the American Embassy to Jerusalem will make our Independence Day celebrations even happier.”
Netanyahu was joined by other Israeli government officials that voiced similar pleasure with the American Embassy announcement. The PLO and Hamas were not as pleased with the U.S. plan to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem on a quicker timeline. PLO Secretary-General Saeb Erekat was quoted in Reuters as saying, “Trump and his team have disqualified the U.S. from being part of the solution between Israelis and Palestinians; rather, the world now sees that they are part of the problem.”
Erekat also went on to state that the United States is determined to “violate international law, destroy the two-state solution, and provoke the feelings of the Palestinian people, as well as of all Arabs, Muslims, and Christians around the globe.”
Hamas officials voiced similar concerns and outrage about the Trump administration’s U.S. Embassy decision. Hamas spokesman Abd al-Latif al-Kanou spoke in Gaza, stating, “moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem is a declaration of war against the Arab and Muslim nation, and the U.S administration must reconsider its move.” The Palestinian National Council (PNC) issued an official statement echoing Hamas’ sentiments that stated, “the current American administration will bear the consequences of its decision, which harms the faith and feelings of Arabs and Muslims throughout the world and in humanity in general.”
An unnamed U.S. State Department official disclosed to The Times of Israel preliminary plans for the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem. The State Department official stated, “The Embassy will initially be located in Arnona [in south Jerusalem], on a compound that currently houses the consular operations of Consulate General Jerusalem. At least initially, it will consist of the ambassador and a small team.” U.S. ambassador to Israel David Friedman and his staff are expected to relocate from their offices in Tel Aviv to the consular facility located in the Arnona neighborhood of Jerusalem. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is overseeing the development and implementation of security plans to convert the Arnona consular site into an interim U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem until a new facility is built. U.S. billionaire and casino mogul Sheldon Adelson has offered to fund the construction of the new U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is scheduled to meet with U.S. President Donald Trump in Washington, D.C., on March 5. At this time Netanyahu is expected to formally extend the invitation for Trump to attend the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem on Israel’s Independence Day (Yom Ha’Atzmaut). Arabs refer to Israel’s independence day as Nakba— Arabic for “catastrophe.”