The new US Embassy in Jerusalem will open in May 2018 to coincide with the 70th anniversary of Israel declaring independence, two Trump administration officials have said. At first, the embassy will operate out of the US’s current consular premises in Arnona, south Jerusalem. The officials said Congress was being notified of the impending move. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has signed off on the security plan for the new embassy. The State Department confirmed the timing of the move, with an official telling The Times of Israel: “We are planning to open the new US Embassy to Israel in Jerusalem in May. The Embassy opening will coincide with Israel’s 70th anniversary.”
The official said, “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.” A ribbon-cutting ceremony is being planned for mid-May. Israel proclaimed independence on May 14, 1948 and the ceremony could be held on May 14 to honour that date. The May opening marks a significant acceleration. Vice President Mike Pence had said previously the embassy would open by the end of 2019. And Tillerson had said it could take years.
The date of the move is seen as largely symbolic, as the logistics of a permanent relocation are expected to take much longer. Most of the embassy staff could continue to operate from Tel Aviv during the early stages. Staff at the consulate were told that, as of mid-May, they would be considered employees of the embassy. In its initial phase, Ambassador David Friedman will move to the consular premises and the building will be formally redesignated as the US Embassy. Aides to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyhau say he had not sought the accelerated process, however an opening ceremony at a US embassy in Jerusalem, as he battles corruption allegations, is well-timed from his perspective.
The US will initially retrofit a small suite of offices in the facility to accommodate Friedman, and key aides, while Friedman will still also maintain an office at the current embassy in Tel Aviv, which would henceforth be considered a branch of the Jerusalem embassy. Jerusalem consular staff will continue to provide consular services such as issuing passports and visas at the building. The US Consulate on Jerusalem’s Agron Street, which is responsible for Palestinian areas, will continue to function as before. The rest of the embassy staff will remain at first in America’s current facility in Tel Aviv.
Over time, the Arnona facility will be expanded to accommodate more embassy personnel. The expansion could ultimately involve an adjacent property that currently houses a home for senior citizens. It will come under US control in the next few years under a previous arrangement, officials said. Finally, a new purpose-built embassy will be planned and constructed. Earlier, four US officials said that the Trump administration was considering an offer from Republican mega-donor Sheldon Adelson to pay for at least part of the new embassy. Lawyers at the State Department are looking into the legality of accepting private donations to cover some or all of the embassy costs.
In one possible scenario, the administration would solicit contributions not only from Adelson but potentially from other donors in the evangelical and American Jewish communities, too. One official said Adelson, a Las Vegas casino magnate and staunch supporter of Israel, had offered to pay the difference between the total cost, expected to run into the hundreds of millions of dollars, and what the administration is able to raise. Under any circumstance, letting private citizens cover the costs of an official government building would mark a significant departure from historical US practice.
In the Jerusalem case, it would add yet another layer of controversy to Trump’s politically charged decision to move the embassy, given Adelson’s longstanding affiliation with right-wing Israeli politics. Since Trump’s announcement on December 6 that the US recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and planned to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to the holy city, his administration has been sifting through options for fast-tracking the relocation. Last month, Pence announced during a visit to Israel that the embassy would move by the end of 2019, possibly earlier. Ambassador Friedman, who lobbied for Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, has advocated moving the embassy as soon as possible.
Anti-Semitic flyers describing Jews as the enemy of education, the family unit and human rights, have been distributed around Melbourne’s inner west, alarming a leading civil rights group. The Anti-Defamation Commission has condemned the “contemptible and unsettling” flyer, expressing concerns that anti-Semites were “redoubling their efforts like never before”. The one-page flyer, which was distributed anonymously around Footscray, appeared to blame Jews for everything from mass immigration and overpopulation to processed foods, even “making life harder so both parents are working, thus pushing children into childcare centres”.
“The Jews are the whole world’s enemy,” it said. “They are pure evil.” Anti-Defamation Commission chairman Dvir Abramovich said the group condemned the “contemptible and unsettling” flyer that promoted “dangerous stereotypes, conspiracy theories and fear”. “The repugnant charges made against Jews in this flyer attempt to drive a potentially dangerous wedge between communities and poses a threat to the values of inclusivity and respect that we cherish” Mr Abramovich said. “We hope that those who are promoting this bigoted campaign are exposed for spreading the virus of prejudice.” Mr Abramovich says that the incident has been reported to police.
The Anti-Defamation Commission has been at the forefront of highlighting incidents of anti-Semitism. It was behind Port Phillip Council’s recent drafting of a historic motion condemning anti-Semitism. The motion, understood to be the first of its kind to be adopted by a local government, was in response to an incident late last year in which a councillor, who was Jewish, was presented at a meeting with a parcel containing 30 silver coins, an inflammatory and racially offensive act symbolising betrayal.
MEXICO TO STOP VOTING IN FAVOUR OF PALESTINIANS AND SUPPORT ISRAEL
Mexico has reportedly announced that it will change its voting strategy at the United Nations and other international bodies by voting in favour of Israel rather than the Palestinians. Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Figari contacted Israeli Ambassador to Mexico Yoni Peled and told him of the shift in strategy. The report said that Mexico will change from voting in favour of the Palestinians to abstaining or voting for Israel’s interests. In mid-September last year, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made his first-ever official visit to Mexico. During the same month, Israel provided humanitarian aid to the North American country following a 7.1-magnitude earthquake there.