The US Embassy said Tuesday the State Department has sold the ambassador’s official residence near Tel Aviv — a decision that cements the embassy’s move to Jerusalem.
In an announcement, the embassy did not identify the buyer or disclose the sale price. But Hebrew daily Globes identified the buyer as casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, a major supporter and financial backer of President Donald Trump. Representatives for Adelson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The sprawling seaside compound in the upscale town of Herzliya had a reported asking price of over $80 million. Globes put the sale price at NIS 300 million ($88.4 million).
“The buyer was was selected solely on the basis of having submitted the highest and best offer. The selected buyer and the unsuccessful bidders have been notified,” the embassy said.
The Trump administration moved the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in May 2018, six months after recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Ambassador David Friedman, a long-time supporter of Israel’s settler movement, played a leading role in the embassy’s move. The official residence is expected to be vacated in spring 2021, the embassy said.
Most foreign delegations have their embassies in Tel Aviv because of Jerusalem’s contested status.
Israel’s parliament, supreme court, president’s residence and most ministries are headquartered in Jerusalem. The Palestinians claim east Jerusalem — which Israel captured in the 1967 war and later annexed — as the capital of a future state.
The Democratic presidential nominee, Joe Biden, has called the Trump administration’s decision to move the embassy “short-sighted and frivolous,” but he has said he would not move it back to Tel Aviv if elected president in November.
Friedman is reportedly set to remain in the ambassador’s residence for some time after it is sold, Globes reported. The ambassador, who has an official residence in Jerusalem on Agron Street, cannot live there until it is extensively renovated, due to security concerns.
“The Department of State has recently selected the buyer for the sale of the former Chief of Mission Residence in Herzliya, Israel,” a spokesman for the US embassy said. “The embassy will vacate the Chief of Mission Residence in spring of 2021.”
When finalized, Adelson’s intended purchase of the 11,000-square-foot villa, sitting atop 1.2 acres of seaside property, will be the most ever paid for an Israeli home, breaking the record set earlier this year by Russian-Israeli billionaire Roman Abramovich, who paid NIS 226 million ($64.5 million) for a home in the same neighborhood, Globes reported.
The price reflects its location on Galei Tchelet Street, considered Israel’s most expensive, with its views of the Mediterranean. It is home to several ambassadors and billionaires.