It turns out that Prime Minister Netanyahu did know what he was talking bout Wednesday, when he told reporters regarding the US moving its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem: “My assessment is that the embassy will move much faster than we think,” suggesting it would happen “within one year, this is my solid assessment.”
That same Wednesday, President Trump told Reuters in an exclusive interview: “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.”
And then, on Thursday the NY Times quoted senior officials who said the Trump administration is moving faster than expected to transfer the American Embassy to Jerusalem by 2019.
It was not clear whether Trump had been briefed on the new timetable when he spoke to Reuters, according to the Times. It appears that when he said there would be no move, he was referring to constructing a new embassy compound in Jerusalem, since he has been on the warpath regarding the GW Bush administration’s decision (Trump blamed Obama) to close the embassy in London and build a new one, at a cost of more than $1 billion.
This was probably why Trump told Reuters on the Jerusalem embassy issue: “We’re looking at doing a beautiful embassy, but not one that costs $1.2 billion. You know what that means, you know what I mean by that?”
But the State Department has since decided on a more modest plan, whereby the existing consular building in the Diplomat hotel compound in the Arnona neighborhood, western Jerusalem, would become the embassy, where Ambassador David M. Friedman and his staff will relocate in 2019.
According to Channel 12 TV, In the first phase, the Americans intend to remove the consular offices currently provided in the Diplomat compound, where the embassy is expected to be established. These are office services that are not important enough to be kept there.
In the second phase, in a relatively short period of time, a very limited team will be transferred from Tel Aviv, perhaps only the ambassador’s immediate staff.
Afterwards, in the third phase, the State Dept. will have to take care of a group of elderly olim who currently live in the Diplomat Hotel.
The fourth phase is constructing the embassy building, which, including scouting a site, commissioning a design (renowned Jerusalem architect Yigal Levy has reportedly been itching for the commission) and building the embassy compound could take six years, and cost from $600 million to $1 billion.
The Times noted that moving the embassy quickly, albeit in a limited fashion, could boost Trump’s side in the coming midterm elections, seeing as his daily aggregate popularity rating has gone up since his Jerusalem declaration from around 36% to an unwavering 40%.