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US embassy move to Jerusalem may take three years

Activists shout slogans and hold placards during a protest against the US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, on 7 December 2017 [Mustafa Kamacı/Anadolu Agency]

The relocation of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem will take at least three years according to the US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

Trump’s controversial announcement last week, which broke with the international consensus over the status of Jerusalem, was followed by speculations about the timing of the US embassy move from its current location in Tel Aviv.

Relocating the US embassy will likely take at least three years, and quite possibly longer, Tillerson indicated yesterday. “It’s not going to be anything that happens right away,” Tillerson said in a speech at the State Department. “Probably no earlier than three years out, and that’s pretty ambitious.”

Tillerson’s comments were leapt upon by journalists during a press conference at the State Department. “I don’t know whether something has changed over the weekend to prolong the process or whether they’re just vague estimates,” said a journalist to Heather Nauert spokesperson for the United States Department of State. “Do you – does Secretary intend that the physical move of the embassy should take place during President Trump’s first term?”

Nauert was non-committal about the exact timing of the move saying “look, I think the move – the moving of the embassy will be done when it is all – when it’s ready”. She continued with further prevarication adding: “We have to take a look at all the security things that have to be factored into that site. Is this a – is this the right space for it. So a lot of that stuff is just, frankly, going to take time, and that’s why the Secretary said it could take several years.”

Read: What does Trump’s Jerusalem decision actually mean?

Asked why the White House failed to take these issues into consideration before making the announcement, Nauert said: “Well look, I suppose so. But here’s where we are now, the President made his decision, and now we’re taking the position that we need to look at what next – what the next steps are.”

Journalists also enquired if there are any political challenges to moving the embassy and if it would have a political consequence of making it impossible for the US to mediate in a peace process.

Nauert explained that the peace process had failed to make changes to the situation which promoted Trump to “look at this as a new way of potentially being able to move the ball, to advance the ball to try to get the Palestinians and Israelis to come together”.

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