US team said headed to Israel to coordinate consulate transformation

Delegation to begin laying groundwork for Jerusalem compound to become embassy, according to Hadashot; initial US ask of isolated 25-acre parcel reportedly rejected by city

View of the US Consulate in Jerusalem's Arnona neighborhood, February 24, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
View of the US Consulate in Jerusalem's Arnona neighborhood, February 24, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

An American delegation coordinating the transfer of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem will land in Israel next week, according to a report Tuesday.

The delegation is expected to consist of lawyers, logistical staff, diplomats, engineers and others, who will lay the groundwork for the country’s main mission in Israel to be moved to a consular affairs building in south Jerusalem , the Hadashot television news outlet reported.

The State Department said Friday that it had moved up the date for the embassy transfer to mid-May, coinciding with Israel’s 70th birthday, by converting a consulate building in Jerusalem’s residential Arnona neighborhood as a temporary solution.

There was no immediate confirmation on the delegation’s arrival from US officials.

Trump initially announced he would move the embassy on December 6, recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and making good on a long-awaiting promise from successive US administrations. The move was accompanied by angry reactions from the Palestinians, who see part of Jerusalem as their future capital, and dire warnings of increased tensions from the international community.

This file photo taken on January 20, 2017 shows the exterior of the US Embassy building in the Israeli coastal city of Tel Aviv. (AFP/JACK GUEZ)

Officials initially said it would take six years to construct a new embassy, but the administration has moved up the date by promising to simply convert the sleek stone and glass consular compound, which opened in 2010 and straddles the Green Line separating East and West Jerusalem.

US authorities had initially asked Jerusalem to provide a large plot of land to build the new embassy, replacing the hulking and heavily secured brutalist building currently used by the US on the Tel Aviv beachfront. However, they were told by Jerusalem officials no such plot meeting US security requirements existed in the city, according to the Hadashot report.

The US had been seeking a 25-acre parcel with no other buildings or factories in the immediate vicinity, according to the report.

An elderly Russian woman sits in the reception of the Diplomat Hotel in Jerusalem, a possible site for the US Embassy. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

Instead, the US is expected to demolish the former Diplomat Hotel next to the consulate and build the new embassy in its place, according to the report.

The former hotel tower was purchased in 2014 by the US for future use as a diplomatic outpost. It currently houses some 500 elderly immigrants from the former Soviet Union.

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