Israel is to build an embassy complex in occupied Jerusalem, a year after US President Donald Trump announced his plans to relocate the American Embassy to the city. Israel's Construction and Housing Ministry announced today that it plans to build a complex with space for nine separate embassies in occupied East Jerusalem, in the belief that more countries will follow the US lead and move their diplomatic missions from Tel Aviv, Arutz Sheva reported.
The complex is to be built on a 25-acre plot of land in East Talpiot, a southern neighbourhood of Jerusalem. Following the Nakba of 1948, East Talpiot became part of no man's land, next to the 1949 Armistice Line – sometimes known as the Green Line – observed by Israel and Jordan. During the Six Day War of 1967 Israel occupied the neighbourhood, establishing an illegal settlement there in 1973.
The plan to build the complex in East Talpiot is therefore in contravention of international law. As such, any country which chooses to move its embassy into the complex upon its completion would also be violating international law.
The intended construction is being pushed by Israel's Construction and Housing Minister, Yoav Galant, who said of the plan: "I am convinced that many more countries will relocate their embassies to Jerusalem, which is why I instructed experts in the ministry to come up with an appropriate solution for the embassies in the future, including construction of a special 'Embassy Quarter'."
Galant urged the international community to relocate their embassies to Jerusalem. "It is our eternal capital. It is the right thing to do. Make the move quickly; the best places are going to be taken quickly."
Since Trump announced that he would move the US embassy to Jerusalem last December, only Guatemala and Paraguay have followed suit. However, within months of relocating its mission, Paraguay reversed the decision and moved the embassy back to Tel Aviv, citing a desire to support "broad, lasting and just peace" among Israelis and Palestinians.
Other countries have toyed with the idea of moving their embassies to Jerusalem but have been hesitant to follow through with the move. In October, it emerged that Australia was contemplating relocating its embassy, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison saying that he was "open-minded" about it. "No decision has been made regarding the recognition of a capital or the movement of an embassy […] but at the same time, what we are simply doing is being open to that suggestion," he explained.
This prompted a furious backlash from Malaysia and Indonesia, two countries that have historically been supportive of the Palestinian cause. Australia has not yet acted on any such plans, with reports emerging yesterday that a decision is "still pending".