US will move embassy to Jerusalem in May, to be funded by Sheldon Adelson

Eighty-seven countries have embassies in Israel, none of them are in Jerusalem. (photo: Abir Sultan / European Pressphoto Agency)

The move would coincide with the 70th anniversary of the founding of the State of Israel, as well as the 70th anniversary of the “Nakba,” the expulsion of 750,000 Palestinians from their homes.

By Peter Baker and Gardiner Harris | The New York Times | Feb 23, 2018

“The decision of the US administration to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and to choose the anniversary of the Nakba of the Palestinian people for carrying out this step expresses a flagrant violation of the law.”
— Saeb Erekat, secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organization

Sheldon G. Adelson, one of the most hawkish supporters of Israel among American Jews, has offered to help fund the construction of a new American Embassy in Jerusalem, according to the State Department, which on Friday said it was reviewing whether it could legally accept the donation.

The total price tag to build the new embassy to replace the current one in Tel Aviv is estimated at around $500 million, according to one former State Department official. While private donors have previously paid for renovations to American ambassadors’ overseas residences, Mr. Adelson’s contribution would be likely to far surpass those gifts — and could further strain American diplomacy in the Middle East.

Before the embassy is built, the Trump administration plans to open a temporary one in Jerusalem. On Friday, it said that it was accelerating the projected opening in time to mark the 70th anniversary of the creation of the State of Israel on May 14.

Even some of Mr. Adelson’s allies expressed concern that if the administration accepts his offer for the permanent embassy, it could be seen as a well-heeled financial contributor effectively privatizing — and politicizing — American foreign policy.

Mr. Adelson, who has been a vocal supporter of the contentious plan to move the embassy, is not merely a philanthropist; he is one of the most prominent players in Israeli-American relations. He is a conservative force in American politics, a donor to President Trump, a longtime patron of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the owner of Israel’s largest-circulation daily newspaper.

“I’m concerned that people will think that this is being done because of a group of people — evangelicals and Jews — who care about it and not because it’s the U.S. government that cares about it,” said Morton A. Klein, who runs the Zionist Organization of America, a nonprofit group that is funded partly by Mr. Adelson.

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