About a month after President Donald Trump officially announced that the U.S. would now recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and would be moving the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv, Vice President Mike Pence has said that the new embassy will be open before the end of 2019.
“By finally recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the United States has chosen fact over fiction. And fact is the only true foundation for a just and lasting peace,” said Pence as he addressed Israel’s Knesset, or parliament on Monday.
Pence reiterated that the decision was made by the Trump administration to keep “lasting peace” between Israelis and Palestinians.
“I bring greetings from a leader who has done more to bring our two countries together than any leader in the last 70 years,” said Pence. “Thanks to the president’s leadership, the alliance between our two countries has never been stronger. I am here to convey a simple message from the heart of the American people: America stands with Israel.”
However, Pence did not mention if the U.S. government would retrofit an already owned building, purchase a building or construct one for the embassy.
Prior to Pence’s announcement, other officials have projected different estimates for when the new embassy will be open.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the embassy move could be by the end of this year, but Trump disputed this last week.
“By the end of the year? We’re talking about different scenarios — I mean obviously that would be on a temporary basis,” said Trump to Reuters. “We’re not really looking at that. That’s no.”
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said it would probably be “three years out” and has yet to sign off on the safety plans to approve the official move.
While Pence received a warm welcome from Israeli PM Netanyahu in Jerusalem, Palestinian officials are boycotting his visit after seeing the recent decision as the U.S. siding unfairly with Israel.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called off a meeting with Pence that was scheduled for mid- December.
Critics of the Jerusalem decision argue that the administration has taken the wrong approach to this problem.
“While it is right to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, this is the time for bold moves toward regional peace among the parties, not rhetoric that is unmatched by fully thought-out policy and the hard diplomatic work required for such important steps. That means pressing the parties to open direct negotiations and offering American strong support for a two-state solution, as Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama did,” writes Ron Klien for Haaretz.
The embassy announcement resulted in a series of protests condemning the decision.
This controversial move was then followed by another controversial move by Trump in an effort to get the Palestinians to take a seat at the peace negotiating table.
“We pay the Palestinians HUNDRED OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS a year and get no appreciation or respect,” tweeted Trump earlier this month. “They don’t even want to negotiate a long overdue peace treaty with Israel. We have taken Jerusalem, the toughest part of the negotiation, off the table, but Israel, for that, would have had to pay more. But with the Palestinians no longer willing to talk peace, why should we make any of these massive future payments to them?”
The Trump Administration has made it clear that the U.S. will be taking stricter stances when it comes to the peace negotiations and isn’t afraid to take action.
“We are at the dawn of a new era of renewed discussions to achieve a peaceful resolution to a decades-long conflict,” said Pence. “The United States of America remains committed, if the parties agree, to a two state solution.”
Author’s note: Two years seems like a long time, but this is pretty quick for an embassy move. The logistics and security for a larger embassy are massive undertakings and may even take longer to finalize. Again, Trump is actually doing something and is applying pressure where it is needed to get peace talks in the works.