The US announced on Friday its plans to move the its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, as part of US recognition of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital.
US President Donald Trump’s decision last December to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital has caused tension with Washington’s Arab allies as well as the European Union.
The US is the first country to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, a move that has put a jam in Middle East peace efforts.
“We are excited about taking this historic step, and look forward with anticipation to the May opening,” said U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert.
Existing consular facilities will be upgraded to serve as a short-term embassy, while a site for a permanent embassy is being located.
Initially the embassy will have office space for the ambassador and a small staff, before being upgraded in 2019 to include a new embassy annex.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has welcomed the announcement, saying it was a “great day for the people of Israel”.
Sheldon G. Adeslon, a pro-Israel Jewish US businessman, has offered to help fund the new embassy, with the US State department investigating whether it can legally accept the donation.
The move was not welcomed by Palestinians, who wish to use the eastern part of Jerusalem as their capital, and have criticised Mr Trump’s move.
“This is an unacceptable step. Any unilateral move will not give legitimacy to anyone and will be an obstacle to any effort to create peace in the region,” said Nabil Abu Rdainah, a spokesman for the Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas.