A day after President Trump appeared noncommittal as to when the US embassy would be relocated to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, it was reported his administration has redoubled its efforts to make the move by 2019.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told reporters on Wednesday that the US embassy would be moved “in the course of a year,” Trump appeared to reject the idea later in the day.
“By the end of the year?” Trump told Reuters in an exclusive interview. “We’re talking about different scenarios. I mean obviously that would be on a temporary basis. We’re not really looking at that. That’s a no.”
But Thursday, senior U.S. officials told The New York Times that the administration is moving faster than expected to locate the embassy in Jerusalem sometime in 2018.
Rather than construct an entirely new complex, the State Department has decided to repurpose an existing consular building in West Jerusalem to be the new embassy, the Times reported.
U.S. officials said Trump was hesitant to commit to a one-year timetable because he may have been referring to an initial plan to build an embassy compound from scratch.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Thursday successfully petitioned Trump for additional time to ensure the security of the West Jerusalem complex, which is located in the Arnona neighborhood, the Times reported.
“What you’ll see from the secretary is that we will do this at the pace of security, not at the pace of politics,” the under secretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs, Steven Goldstein, told the paper.