Smart business move: Why build new when you can renovate the existing.
Donald Trump’s announcement recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and ordering preparations to commence to relocate the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv, did not lead to the widespread violence that critics predicted. It has, however, caused the Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas to lay bare his decades old anti-Semitism in a recent tirade, and to engage in a name calling spree against Trump.
The delay, to some uncertain future date, of the actual Embassy move was seen as making the recognition somewhat symbolic. And called into question whether it ever actually would happen.
Based on the language coming from the State Department, it appeared that the actual move would be at least several years away, as property needed to be acquired, plans drawn up, and construction commenced. That never made much sense, since the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem easily could be redesignated as the Embassy, though expansion might be needed.
I’ve never gone inside the Consulate grounds, but I have walked and driven past the heavily guarded gate many times. The Consulate is located diagonally across the street from the Super Sol supermarket at which now-deported terrorist Rasmea Odeh planted a bomb in 1969 that killed Edward Joffe and Leon Kanner. I wrote about my visit to the supermarket in 2015. [Note: A commenter believes this paragraph confuses locations in Jerusalem of the old consulate that now serves as consular residence and offices, as opposed to the new consulary that might be the site of the new Embassy, correctly depicted in the Map below.]
The Consulate grounds straddles the “green line,” the 1949 Armistice line that never was supposed to server as a final border, but now is spoken of politically as if it is of historical and legal importance. The U.S. owns adjacent land, including the former Diplomat Hotel.
Haaretz has this description of the Consulate:
The consulate, which was planned by American architects, has 19,500 square meters of built-up area (based on the blueprints given to Israeli planning authorities). Architects say that even if a lot of that is parking space and the like, it’s a big building – not much smaller than the present American embassy in Tel Aviv.
This appears to be the architect’s rendering.
So why buy new land and go through all the expense of building a new Embassy in Jerusalem from scratch? What businessman would do such a thing.
Looks like the Trump administration will take the logical route, and redesignate the Consulate as the Embassy after an expansion and renovation. The Times of Israel reports:
The Trump administration is accelerating its transfer of the US Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, US media reported on Thursday, with a plan to have the facility ready by the end of 2019.
To expedite the move, the US will not build a new structure, but will instead convert an existing consular building in the Arnona neighborhood of West Jerusalem into the new US mission, officials were cited as saying by both The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.
The Arnona building lies near the Green Line, which marked Israel’s borders from 1949 until the Six Day War of 1967. It has been used over the years to issue visas and provide various consular services, but would need to be renovated to accommodate the ambassador and classified operations that would be based there.
CBS News reports:
The Trump Administration is speeding up its plans to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, with plans to open the new diplomatic post in 2019.
This is a change from what Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and other Trump administration officials had previously said when they projected it would take three years or more to construct a new Embassy. The decision to accelerate plans was made in a Thursday meeting at the White House.
“The secretary will do this at the pace of security, not politics,” said Steve Goldstein, undersecretary of state for diplomacy and public affairs. “Our equity is in the safety and security of U.S. personnel.”
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