Trump now has put his plan to move the US embassy to Jerusalem into hyperdrive: it should open on the 70th anniversary of the founding of the State of Israel (known to Palestinians and many others as “Nakba Day” – The Catastrophe – when 750,000 muslims and Christians were ethnically cleansed to make way for the “Jewish state.”).
Billionaire Sheldon Adelson appears ready to help bankroll the project – although this may be illegal.
In the final piece below, JTA’s editor lampoons the idea…
U.S. Speeds Up Timetable for Moving Embassy to Jerusalem
“Every other president really lied, because they campaigned on it,” Trump said Friday at a conservative conference outside of Washington. “That was always a big part of the campaign. Then they got into office, they never did it.”
Last month Vice President Mike Pence had told the Israeli parliament that the embassy move would take place in 2019.
Recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is controversial because the eastern part of the city — home to some of the holiest ancient sites in Judaism, Christianity and Islam — is also claimed by Palestinians as the capital of a future state. Critics argue that Trump was essentially circumventing Israel-Palestinian peace talks, where Jerusalem’s status was to be one of the topics for negotiation.
Congress passed a law in 1995 recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and requiring the president to move the American embassy to the city, but previous U.S. leaders have invoked waivers permitted under the law to avoid starting that process.
Trump’s decision provoked protests from across the Middle East and beyond. Palestinian leaders said Trump’s declaration disqualified the U.S. as a mediator in the long-running peace process, while the United Nations General Assembly voted 128-9 to condemn the plan.
Kushner Versus Tillerson
The decision also spurred a fierce internecine battle within the administration between the State Department on the one hand and Trump, Pence and Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner on the other. Pence and Kushner, who Trump has put in charge of the Middle East peace process, have demanded the embassy be moved quickly, while Tillerson has argued for more time to ensure the safety of U.S. citizens. Officials said any move to build a new embassy in Jerusalem would take several years.
The move was further clouded in confusion in January, when Steve Goldstein, the undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs, said plans to build a new embassy in Jerusalem had been abandoned because such construction would be “cost-prohibitive.” He said the existing facility would be retrofitted instead, a comment that administration officials said provoked anger from Pence and Kushner.
Goldstein appeared to have been overruled in the time since. In the announcement on Friday, the State Department said the U.S. has started searching for a site for a permanent embassy, “the planning and construction of which will be a longer-term undertaking.”
In a wrinkle, Trump’s administration is also in early discussions with Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire owner of Las Vegas Sands Corp., the world’s largest casino operator, and a major Trump backer, to help fund the embassy, according to a State Department official who asked not to be identified discussing private matters.
State Department lawyers are studying the legality of the proposal, which Adelson has been discussing with Friedman since last year, the official said. The early consensus is that U.S. law wouldn’t allow for the embassy to be privately funded but the talks are continuing, according to the official who commented after Adelson’s offer was reported Friday by the Associated Press.
Thank you for supporting the American Friends of The Sheldon & Miriam Adelson Embassy of the United States in Israel!
(Warning — satire ahead.)
We are so honored by your commitment to celebrating the new U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem and its namesake donor, Sheldon Adelson.
Thanks to your generosity, The Sheldon & Miriam Adelson Embassy of the United States in Israel will be a world class institution, serving the needs of American diplomats in the country, promoting U.S. interests in an unstable region and offering on-site catering for a variety of community functions. (For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.)
It is only with the help of individuals like you that we can continue to offer deluxe facilities for representing our national priorities in the region and beyond – because, frankly, it’s not in the federal budget at the moment. Being a part of the American Friends of The Sheldon & Miriam Adelson Embassy of the United States in Israel is an affirmation of our commitment to our families, our community and the continuing blurring of the lines between the executive branch and private interests, as well as the kinds of political influence that supporters of Citizens United v. FEC never could have dreamed of.
American Friends of The Sheldon & Miriam Adelson Embassy of the United States in Israel offers several giving levels, providing you with the chance to be our partner in helping our State Department spend even less of its money on asserting America’s soft power in the world.
The Builders Society
With a minimum pledge of $1.8 million to our annual campaign, donors have the satisfaction of building a strong diplomatic community and earning naming rights to the conference room of their choice. Imagine your in-laws’ surprise when they hear that U.S. policy toward the fair distribution of bilateral water rights is being hashed out in the Milton and Betty Lefkowitz Library! (Interested in ordering a Builders’ lapel pin? Click here.)
With a meaningful gift of $500,000, you are eligible to join the Jared Kushner Circle and actually sit in on a high-level strategy session with top representatives of the administration’s Middle East negotiating team. No experience, no security clearance? No problem!
The Chaverim Club
With a gift of $10,000 to the annual campaign, you are automatically entered into a drawing for the right to have your name attached to a Formal Agreement between the United States and Israel. (Past winners include the Rothman Family Memorandum of Understanding to Enhance and Expand Cooperative Efforts in Strategic Defense and The Mutual Recognition Agreement for Conformity Assessment of Telecommunications Equipment in Honor of Leonard Waxburg on his 75th Birthday. Mazel Tov, Uncle Lenny!)
Lions of Sheldon
Lions are members of a select group of philanthropists who, by endowing the Embassy in perpetuity with a legacy gift, may honor a loved one or have their name live on forever with a special plaque attached to the feature of their choosing. Options (pending availability) include the auditorium, the visa and consular section, the subterranean wastewater treatment plant, the 12-inch blast wall or the CIA station (shhh!).
In sum, American Friends of The Sheldon & Miriam Adelson Embassy of the United States in Israel has brought together men and women of all walks of life to play an essential role in promoting peace, security and U.S. interests abroad at a time when our own State Department has seemed to have thrown up its hands altogether. Thank you for being part of the future!
Andrew Silow-Carroll is JTA’s editor in chief.