U.S. and Israeli flags are flown in preparation for a media event during Austere Challenge 2012 in Israel Oct. 24, 2012. [Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons]

On Friday, the US Department of State announced plans to move the United States embassy to Jerusalem in May of this year. Israelis rejoiced over the announcement. This past December, US President Donald Trump made his historic announcement, in which he formally declared Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and his intentions to move the US embassy there. “This is nothing more or less than a recognition of reality. It is also the right thing to do. It’s something that has to be done,” Trump said during his speech. Since Trump’s historic announcement, there was uncertainty as to when the embassy move would happen.

In a speech to the Israeli Knesset (Israel’s parliament) this past month, US Vice President Mike Pence announced that the US government had advanced its plans to move the embassy Jerusalem and that the move would be complete by the end of next year. During his speech to the Knesset, Pence said, “the United States has chosen fact over fiction — and the fact is the only true foundation for a just and lasting peace… Jerusalem is Israel’s capital … in the weeks ahead, our administration will advance its plan to open the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem and the embassy will open by the end of next year.”

The recent decision to move the embassy in May came as a surprise to most in Israel. Earlier today, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tweeted, “Over the weekend we learned that President Trump has decided to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem, the capital of Israel, on this coming Independence Day.”

The full Press Statement issued by Heather Nauert of the US Department of State, which can also be seen on its official website, is below:

“In May, the United States plans to open a new U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem. The opening will coincide with Israel’s 70th anniversary. The Embassy will initially be located in the Arnona neighborhood, in a modern building that now houses consular operations of U.S. Consulate General Jerusalem. Those consular operations, including American citizen and visa services, will continue at the Arnona facility without interruption, as part of the Embassy. Consulate General Jerusalem will continue to operate as an independent mission with an unchanged mandate, from its historic Agron Road location. Initially, the interim Embassy in Arnona will contain office space for the Ambassador and a small staff. By the end of next year, we intend to open a new Embassy Jerusalem annex on the Arnona compound that will provide the Ambassador and his team with expanded interim office space. In parallel, we have started the search for a site for our permanent Embassy to Israel, the planning and construction of which will be a longer-term undertaking. We are excited about taking this historic step, and look forward with anticipation to the May opening.”

In 2 separate tweets, the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Friday’s announcement “great moment for the State of Israel” and “a great day for the people of Israel”.

We thank US President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, and the American people for their friendship and for their longstanding support for Israel.