United States expected to move embassy to Jerusalem in May 2018

A bridge on the Jerusalem Tel Aviv fast train route July 2017

Earlier on Friday, a senior State Department official said Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had approved a security plan late Thursday for an embassy location to open in Jerusalem.

"We are excited about taking this historic step, and look forward with anticipation to the May opening", U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said, noting that it will coincide with Israel's 70th anniversary.

Adelson is a fervent supporter of Israel who donated over $20 million to the Trump campaign in 2016 in exchange for Trump's word that he would move the US embassy to the holy city.

Palestinians will see Trump's announcement as the end of their hopes and demands for East Jerusalem as a capital of a future independent state. It is widely feared that moving the embassy from Tel Aviv will push back already moribund efforts to achieve peace between Israel and the Palestinians, and could result in renewed violence.

Trump administration officials said State Department lawyers were evaluating the legality of accepting private donations to fund the move, including a contribution offer from casino mogul and GOP donor Sheldon Adelson.

Israelis and Palestinians alike interpreted Trump's move as Washington taking Israel's side in the conflict - a view reinforced by the White House's recent decision to withhold financing for the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA).

Last month, Vice President Mike Pence told the Israeli Parliament that the new embassy would open "before the end of next year".


"We officially recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel", Trump said to prolonged applause from a friendly audience at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference just outside Washington, DC.

"The American administration's decisions to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital and choose the Palestinian people's Naqba as the date for this step is a blatant violation of global law", Saeb Erekat, the secretary-general of the PLO, was quoted by AFP as saying. "It's the right thing to do".

Administration officials have suggested that a longer timeframe may have helped to keep peace efforts alive while sparing the USA the sensitive issue of choosing a site for the embassy.

The Palestine Liberation Organization decried Washington's decision as a "provocation to all Arabs".

Trump, speaking at the White House on Friday alongside visiting Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, reiterated a claim he has made that his administration is making "great progress" on promoting peace in the Middle East.

Trump has promised the "ultimate deal", a final agreement on Israeli-Palestinian peace, and placed the negotiations under the direction of his 37-year-old son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

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