A date has been set.
The White House is signaling a May 2018 opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem, meant to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the reestablishment of the state of Israel.
This won’t be an actual move, but an announcement meant to indicate that the move has begun, with a completion goal for the end of 2019.
This is where I remind Christians that this is not the rebuilding of the Temple.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson signed off on a security plan on Thursday, which will allow for the U.S. to begin moving its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
What’s more, billionaire Republican donor, Sheldon Adelson, has offered to partially fund the construction of the embassy.
According to the Associated Press, four U.S. officials confirmed that Adelson had made the offer, and that the White House is looking into the offer.
Lawyers at the State Department are looking into the legality of accepting private donations to cover some or all of the embassy costs, said the officials, who weren’t authorized to discuss the issue publicly and demanded anonymity. The discussions are occurring as the administration plans a ribbon-cutting for a scaled-down, temporary embassy that will open in May — more than a year ahead of schedule.
In one possible scenario, the administration would solicit contributions not only from Adelson but potentially from other donors in the evangelical Christian and American Jewish communities, too. One official said Adelson, a Las Vegas casino magnate and staunch supporter of Israel, had offered to pay the difference between the total cost — expected to run into the hundreds of millions of dollars — and what the administration is able to raise.
The State Department will be sending a letter out on Friday to announce the ribbon-cutting for an interim facility on May 14.
The administration has wrestled with when to move the embassy, and about the expensive price tag.
Secretary Tillerson was never a fan of moving the embassy, and advocated a slower pace. Ambassador David Friedman, however, who fought to have Trump publicly recognize Jerusalem as the capitol of Israel, has also fought to move the embassy sooner.
To enable a May opening, the administration settled on a phased approach to building out the embassy at an existing U.S. facility in Jerusalem’s Arnona neighborhood that currently handles consular affairs like passports and visas.
Initially, the U.S. will merely retrofit a small suite of offices there to accommodate Friedman and one or two top aides such as his chief of staff. The rest of the staff will remain at first in America’s current facility in Tel Aviv.
The plan is to expand that facility in Arnona to bring in more personnel by the end of 2019. There’s also adjacent property that the U.S. will be taking control over in the next several years.
The sticky part about that is that the property is currently housing senior citizens, so if the U.S. tosses those seniors out of a nursing home…
I’ll let you imagine the PR fallout with that one.
The cost of expanding embassy operations is said to be around $500 million. How much of that Adelson is willing to pay is unknown.
For now, the State Department isn’t commenting on Adelson’s offer, or how they would raise funds from private donations.
Most experts say it’s risky, and has never been done, before.
There are several ways, in theory, that it could work. Citizens could cut a general check to the U.S. Treasury and unofficially “earmark” their dollars as being intended to offset the embassy’s cost. The State Department’s Foreign Affairs Manual also lays out a formal process for accepting gifts, including real estate, requiring a rigorous review to ensure the gift “would not give the appearance of a conflict of interest.”
Even Adelson’s friends are suggesting caution be applied, when considering Adelson’s offer.
Mort Klein, president of the pro-Israel group Zionist Organization of America and a close associate of Adelson, said accepting donations would be ill-advised. Klein said he knew Adelson was “deeply interested” in seeing the embassy relocate to Jerusalem but didn’t know whether the casino mogul had offered to help pay for it himself.
“This is a government project. It’s a government-run embassy,” Klein said. “I don’t want people to be able to say it was Jewish money.”
And you can all pretty much imagine some of the talk coming from the anti-Semites that seem to stain every corner of social media or most major universities.
It’s that common ground alt-righters and college elites seem to share: Hating Israel.