Israel expedites US embassy move to Jerusalem

Israel’s Finance Minister signs waiver to allow the US embassy move to Jerusalem in time for Israeli Independence Day in May.

By: Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

“As a minister in the Israeli government, as a citizen of the State of Israel and as a Jew, there is nothing more worth working and striving for than to transfer the United States Embassy to Jerusalem, and officially receive recognition from our most important friends that Jerusalem is the eternal capital of Israel.”

So stated Israeli Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon on Wednesday when he signed a special waiver to cut through the bureaucratic red tape that would have delayed the transfer of the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in time for Israel’s 70th birthday celebration.

Israel celebrates its independence on the Hebrew date of the Jewish lunar calendar (5th of Iyar) which parallels the secular date on which David Ben-Gurion declared the State of Israel — May 14, 1948. This year, the 5th of Iyar arrives early, on April 18.

When the Trump administration announced in February that the transfer would at least begin by Israel’s 70th anniversary, it aimed only for the Gregorian calendar date (May 14). Even that target would have been tight due to the time needed to authorize and complete the necessary upgrade of the consular facility in Jerusalem’s Arnona neighborhood.

The US State Department requires an approximately 3-meter high security wall around the new embassy building, as well as a new road to improve access to (and an emergency escape route from) the compound.

These alterations would ordinarily necessitate the approval of the National Planning and Building Committee to rezone the area, whose next scheduled meeting is in April. At that time, objections to the plans could have been raised, delaying the move even further.

Considering the national importance attached to the American embassy’s relocation to Israel’s capital, however, the committee held a hearing on Tuesday and unanimously agreed to recommend a special exemption so that the infrastructure work could begin immediately.

“This is a historic moment [for which] we have waited for many years,” Kahlon said as he signed the waiver.