The US Embassy’s move to Jerusalem on May 14 is in question due to bureaucratic procedures on the ground, Israel’s Channel 2 News reported Tuesday night. In recent days, a number of State Department officials visited Israel and made it clear to the Israeli officials that urgent security construction work was needed to modify the existing compound in the Jerusalem Arnona neighborhood and turn it from a consulate into an embassy on time.
The Americans demand, among other things, a sealed, 9 foot wall that will surround the entire embassy compound. They also want an escape route to be paved from the southern parking lot of the Diplomat Hotel along the western edge of the Arnona neighborhood. The American have submitted these demands, only to discover that the changes violate the local zoning plan for the building, which was sanctioned as a consulate and not an embassy.
In a letter sent by Foreign Ministry Director-General Yuval Rotem to Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, Rotem warned that it would not be possible to meet the May 14 deadline unless construction exemptions are granted immediately and the approval process is radically curtailed. Otherwise, the entire embassy move would be in jeopardy.
“The procedure to amend the existing zoning plan is expected to take a long time, which will not allow for the completion of the work on the site in time for the embassy’s opening, that is, May 14, 2018,” Rotem wrote, pointing out that “without these works being completed, the compound will not meet the prerequisite requirements of the State Department for the American Embassy.”
Those prerequisite amendments may be passed in a meeting of the National Council for Planning and Building, but the proximity to the Passover holiday is liable to make assembling the NCPB difficult. And so, while President Donald Trump very much wants to preside over the move of his embassy to Jerusalem by Israel’s historic Independence Day, the Israeli bureaucracy may rob him of his dream.
By the way, the May 14 date marks Israel’s 70th Independence day by the Gregorian calendar – but Israel will actually celebrate its independence according to the Hebrew calendar, which historically was Iyar 5, except this year Iyar 5 falls on Friday, so the celebrations will take place Thursday, Iyar 4.
The Prime Minister’s Office issued a statement in response, saying “the prime minister will act decisively and quickly in order to ensure that the American embassy will be transferred on time as planned and, will not allow unnecessary bureaucracy to harm the process.”
Which is probably what leaking the Rotem letter to the TV channel meant to achieve in the first place.