The US Embassy in Israel may already be preparing its expected move to Jerusalem, having purchased additional real estate in the Israeli capital for its consulate, Hadashot news reported Wednesday.
Consulate staff were seen moving equipment and boxes into the former boutique Eden Hotel, in the city’s Arnona neighborhood.
The US Consulate in Jerusalem currently operates two facilities: the main branch on Agron Street (where it has owned a building since 1912) and the Consular Section on Flusser Street in Arnona. In 2014, the US purchased a building adjacent to the facility on Flusser Street known as the Diplomat Hotel, which is currently home to elderly new immigrants.
US officials cited by The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal last week said Washington, seeking to expedite the relocation, will not build a new structure, but will instead convert the Arnona buildings into the new US mission.
Hadashot news speculated that the embassy is seeking to bring consular services nearer to the site, as it prepares to relocate — thus the move into the Eden Hotel.
The workers making the move refused to answer questions from the Hadashot news camera team, and made them stop filming.
In an address to the Knesset on Monday, US Vice President Mike Pence pledged that Washington would relocate the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem by the “end of next year.”
The Arnona building lies near the Green Line, which marked Israel’s borders from 1949 until the Six Day War of 1967. It has been used over the years to issue visas and provide various consular services, but would need to be renovated to accommodate the ambassador and classified operations that would be based there.
Moving into this relatively new building is designed, the reports said, to save money and allow US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman to begin working out of it by next year.
Trump promised to move the embassy in a December 6 speech at the White House, in which he also formally recognized the city as Israel’s capital.
The move was hailed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and by leaders across much of the Israeli political spectrum. But the decision also sparked Palestinian anger and was rejected in a non-binding UN General Assembly resolution.
Potentially highlighting ongoing disagreement with the White House, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert denied Thursday to The Times of Israel than an expedited moving process was now underway.
“The US government is currently assessing the suitability of various Jerusalem sites for a future embassy,” she said. “For now, we have no updates.”