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American delegation to arrive in Israel, study practicalities of embassy move

US Vice President Mike Pence's trip to the Middle East was delayed last month because of controversy over plans to move the American embassy in Israel to Jerusalem
American State Department said embassy to be moved in May, in conjunction with Israel's independence day

An American delegation charged with studying practicalities for the upcoming US embassy move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem is expected to Israel next week, Israeli televison reported. 

According to Hadashot channel, legal experts, logistical staff, as well as engineers and diplomats, will be included in a team to travel to Israel and take care of different aspects of the embassy move.

The relocation of the embassy has been promised by US President Donald Trump during his 2016 campaign and was announced with a speech at the White House last December.

Despite claims that the move would take years to materialize, the State Department announced it would take place as early as May in a statement last week.

May is a symbolic month for Israel which celebrates its independence on May 14th.

While it's unlikely the embassy might relocate to an entirely new diplomatic building in Jerusalem as soon as May, Americans envisage an early upgrade of the current consulate as a start. 

"The Embassy will initially be located in the Arnona neighborhood, in a modern building that now houses consular operations of U.S. Consulate General Jerusalem.

Those consular operations, including American citizen and visa services, will continue at the Arnona facility without interruption, as part of the Embassy," the statement said last week.

The compound where the consulate is based in Jerusalem might soon expand to a building which was formerly used as an hotel, but has now been bought by the American mission to Israel.

"Initially, the interim Embassy in Arnona will contain office space for the Ambassador and a small staff. By the end of next year, we intend to open a new Embassy Jerusalem annex on the Arnona compound that will provide the Ambassador and his team with expanded interim office space," the statement continued.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to invite US President Donald Trump to inaugurate the new US embassy in Israel.

According to a reports by Israel’s Channel 10 and Hadashot News, a ribbon-cutting ceremony is being planned for May 14, to coincide with the Gregorian calendar date on which Israel proclaimed independence in 1948.

Israel marks its Independence Day according to the Hebrew calendar, which this year falls on April 19.

No country currently has its embassy in Jerusalem, instead keeping them in the Israeli commercial capital Tel Aviv.

The status of Jerusalem is among the most contentious in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Israel claims all of Jerusalem as its united capital, while the Palestinians see the eastern sector as the capital of their future state.

The Palestinian Authority responded with anger the date chosen for the embassy move, on a day they view as Nakba Day or "Day of Catastrophe," calling it a "provocation."

Tensions between Israel, the US and the Palestinians have inflamed since Trump's December 6 declaration of Jerusalem as Israel's capital and announcement that the US embassy would be moved to the contested ancient city, breaking with decades of US policy.

The move sparked a new wave of unrest between Israel and the Palestinians, and called into question the US role in future peace talks.


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