The US plans to open its embassy in Jerusalem in May, the State Department said on Friday. This will coincide with the 70th anniversary of the Palestinian Nakba (Catastrophe) and the creation of the state of Israel in Palestine.
"We are excited about taking this historic step, and look forward with anticipation to the May opening," said State Department Spokeswoman Heather Nauert. "The embassy will be gradually expanded in existing consular facilities in the Arnona neighbourhood, while the search for a permanent site has already begun for a longer-term undertaking."
Nauert added that the interim embassy will have office space for the ambassador and a small staff. An annex on the Arnona compound will be opened by the end of next year.
Trump administration officials said that Congress has been notified of the impending move. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson signed off on the security plan for the new embassy on Thursday.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the US decision. He crowed:
It will turn Israel's 70th Independence [sic] Day into a much greater celebration
According to Saeb Erekat, the Palestinian Authority's chief negotiator, though, the US move shows a "determination to violate international law, destroy the two-state solution and provoke the feelings of the Palestinian people as well as of all Arabs, Muslims and Christians around the globe."
Izzat Al-Reshiq of the Hamas Political Bureau said that this move "needs an urgent and strong Palestinian, Arab and Islamic response." He called upon the PLO and Arab and Islamic states which recognise Israel "to withdraw their recognition immediately."