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Trump says may go to Jerusalem embassy opening

The Trump administration’s
announcement in February that it would
shift the American embassy from Tel Aviv
deepened anger across the Arab world,
particularly among Palestinians who see
East Jerusalem as the capital of their
future state.
Trump had already broken with decades of US
policy in December to announce Washington’s
recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital,
drawing near-global condemnation and
sparking days of unrest in the Palestinian
territories.
Speaking in the White House, Trump said he
had no regrets about the decision as he
described nixing a $1 billion, 10-year plan to
construct a brand new embassy in favor of a
$300,000 to $400,000 makeover of part of an
existing US consulate.
“I may go. I’m very proud of it,” Trump told
reporters.
“It is going to be beautiful. And it will be
somewhat temporary, but it could be for many
years,” he said at a joint press conference with
German leader Angela Merkel.
While Israel regards Jerusalem as its
“undisputed and undivided” capital,
Palestinians say its status should only form
part of a final peace agreement and the
embassy move will wreck a two-state solution
to the decades-old Middle East conflict.
Palestinians also particularly object to the
decision to open the embassy to coincide with
the 70th anniversary of Israel’s declaration of
independence in 1948 — a date that they call
the Naqba, or “day of catastrophe.”
Until now, the US embassy has been located in
Tel Aviv with a separate consulate general
located in Jerusalem that represents US
interests in the Palestinian territories.
While previous US presidents had run for
election promising to move the embassy to
Jerusalem, none ever pursued the relocation
once in office.
While Trump’s critics have warned that the
embassy move will undermine Washington’s
ability to act as a mediator between the
Israelis and Palestinians in negotiating any final
peace agreement, Trump has brushed such talk
aside.
“The embassy in Jerusalem has been promised
for many, many years by presidents,” Trump
said in Friday’s press conference.
“They all made campaign promises and they
never had the courage to carry it out. I carried
it out.”
– ‘Never got to Trump’ –
While the United States will eventually move
into a purpose-built embassy, its diplomats will
initially operate out of the consulate in
Jerusalem which is currently being upgraded.
Trump said he had almost signed off on a
proposal to build a new $1 billion embassy but
baulked when he considered the cost.
“The papers were put before me to sign an
application for more than $1 billion to build an
embassy,” said Trump.
“I had my name half signed, then I noticed the
figure and I didn’t. I never got to the word
‘Trump’. I had ‘Donald’ signed but I never got
to the word ‘Trump’.”
The president said he then called the US
ambassador in Israel, David Friedman, who
said the cost of updating the consulate would
only be $150,000.
“He said I can build it for $150,000 — the
embassy. We have a building, we have the site.
We already own the site, we own the building.
“I can take a corner of the building and for
$150,000, we can fix it up, make it beautiful,
open our embassy. Instead of in 10 years from
now we can open it up in three months.
“And that’s what we did. But I said, ‘David,
let’s not go from $1 billion to $150,000. Let’s
go to $300,000, $400,000.’ That’s what we
did. We will take a piece of the building. It is
going to be beautiful. And it will be somewhat
temporary but it could be for many years.
“That’s the way government works. They were
going to spend $1 billion and we’re going to
spend much less than $500,000.”
While the embassy move has infuriated the
Palestinians, it delighted Israeli Prime Minister
Benjamin Netanyahu who has said Trump will
be forever regarded as a hero in the Jewish
state’s history books.

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