By: Al Jazeera
Source: Al Jazeera
The US State Department has said the new US embassy in Jerusalem will open in May 2018, to coincide with the 70th anniversary of Israel’s declaration of independence.
The state department called the move a “historic step” in a statement issued on Friday.
The announcement means the relocation comes much faster than expected. US Vice President Mike Pence in late January saidthe controversial embassy would open in 2019.
The US decision to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem prompted deadly protests in Palestine and solidarity rallies across the world.
For Palestinians, May 15 marks Nakba Day, or the “catastrophe”, when they commemorate the mass displacement of Palestinians to make way for the state of Israel.
Between 1947 and 1949, at least 750,000 Palestinians, out of a population of 1.9 million, were expelled from or fled their homes in Palestine.
A senior Palestinian official told news agency AFP the announcement was “a provocation to Arabs” and a “blatant violation of international law”.
Saeb Erekat, Palestine Liberation Organization secretary-general, said the result would be “the destruction of the two-state option”.
Israel Katz, Israeli intelligence minister, thanked Trump for the announcement.
“There is no greater gift than that! The most just and correct move. Thanks friend!” Katz said in a tweet.
Israel proclaimed its independence on May 14, 1948.
Reporting from Washington, DC, Al Jazeera’s Rosiland Jordan said that it is still unclear where the new embassy will be located.
“I am told that the ambassador, David Friedman, as well as a few aides, will take up their assignment in the current consulate general building in the Arnona neighbourhood in Jerusalem.
“The additional staff will be transferred from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem over time, but there’s also still the outstanding matter of trying to find a location to build a permanent embassy.”
Speaking to Al Jazeera from Ramallah, Mustafa Barghouti, former Palestinian information minister, said the decision meant “adding insult to injury”.
“When they want to move the embassy exactly on the worst anniversary in the history of Palestinians, the anniversary not of the establishment of Israel but of the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people and the creation of the system of racial discrimination and apartheid … this represents a very serious provocation to the Palestinian side,” he said.
At least 20 Palestinians have been killed in protests against the move since December 6, Palestinian health officials have said.