President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team has begun exploring the logistics of moving the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Yerushalayim, and have already begun looking into sites for its intended new location, Channel Two reported Monday evening, hours after Trump’s campaign manager Kellyanne Conway said that the move was “a very big priority” for him.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry is already involved in the move, with officials checking into a possible site for the embassy in Yerushalayim, with one of the options being the Diplomat Hotel in the Talpiot neighborhood, were it to be available, the report said.
The Trump team’s advance work on moving the embassy is being conducted without coordination with the U.S. State Department, the report said, and officials there “deeply dislike the idea.”
Similarly, Israeli security and diplomatic officials are worried about the consequences of an immediate relocation of the U.S. Embassy, with fears of adverse reactions from the Arab world.
The U.S. government purchased the land on which the Diplomat Hotel sits in Yerushalayim in 2014, but the hotel itself remains privately owned and leased out to the Immigrant Absorption Ministry. It is home to some 500 mainly elderly immigrants from the former Soviet Union. Immigrant Absorption Ministry officials have reportedly told their Foreign Ministry colleagues that the building would not be available until 2020.
The Diplomat Hotel area adjoins the existing U.S. Consulate compound, and is therefore considered a potentially logical site for the embassy in Yerushalayim, but it is not the only potential site.
Earlier Monday, Trump’s campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, speaking with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt on his morning show, said that moving the embassy to Yerushalayim “is very big priority for this president-elect, Donald Trump.”
“He made it very clear during the campaign, Hugh, and as president-elect I’ve heard him repeat it several times privately, if not publicly,” she continued.
Although Congress passed a law in 1995 mandating that the U.S. embassy be moved to Yerushalayim, the law included a waiver allowing the president to postpone the move. Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama have all exercised this waiver throughout their presidencies.
Conway implied that it was a mistake not to move the embassy to Yerushalayim. “It is something that our friends in Israel, a great friend in the Middle East, would appreciate and something that a lot of Jewish-Americans have expressed their preference for,” she said.
“It is a great move. It is an easy move to do based on how much he talked about that in the debates and in the sound bites.”