US demands high wall around Jerusalem embassy

US Consulate-General Israel Photo: Reuters

Minister of Finance Moshe Kahlon recommends granting an exemption for an infrastructure permit so that the embassy can be moved in May.

In February, US President Donald Trump announced that the US would move its embassy to Jerusalem, including the US ambassador's office, this coming May. The embassy will be housed in a temporary building in Jerusalem Arnona neighborhood near Talpiot currently used by the US as a consulate until construction by the US of a permanent building on a nearby site is completed at a later stage.

In a letter from Ministry of Foreign Affairs director general Yuval Rotem to Minister of Finance Moshe Kahlon, of which "Globes" has obtained a copy, Rotem says that a number of senior US State Department officials recently visited the consulate and met with Israeli authorities, including the Ministry of Finance Planning Administration. The officials made it clear in these meetings that in order to adapt the existing site to the security needs of the US and the ambassador's office, the US government needs to carry out essential security construction work and complete it by the time of the transfer of the embassy.

"As part of this, a 3.2-meter wall covered with Jerusalem stone must be built surrounding the site," Rotem wrote to Kahlon. "An escape road must be paved from the southern parking lot of the Diplomat Hotel along the western edge of the Mordot Arnona neighborhood to the intersection of Leib Yaffe Street and Asher Weiner Street."

The letter also says that it was discovered that the planned construction does not comply with the local outline plan applying to the place, which was zoned for the US general consulate, not the embassy.

"The State Department can file a request for an exemption from the existing plan or a change in it. These processes, however, are likely to take a long time, especially if objections to them are filed, and will prevent completion of the world at the time set for moving the embassy to Jerusalem in mid-May 2018. Unless this work is completed, the site will not fulfill the security requirements of the State Department for the US embassy."

In his letter, Rotem therefore asks Kahlon to exercise his authority under the Planning and Building Law by ordering the issuing of a temporary exemption from the requirement for a building permit for the purpose of construction work, and that this exemption be valid for three years. Rotem adds, "There is no need to waste words describing the political and national importance of the Israeli government providing every assistance to the US government, Israel's greatest friend, in completing the project of moving the US embassy to Jerusalem at the time decided. Both the prime minister and the minister of foreign affairs agree with me that this is unquestionably a project of national importance and urgency, and that the special circumstances of the case unquestionably justify the exercise of your authority under the law."

Rotem states that after consultation, it was found that this appears to be the only way of allowing completion of the work for moving the embassy to Jerusalem on time, and that it is necessary for the Jerusalem municipality to do the work.

Kahlon today announced that he had ordered the National Planning and Building Commission to convene urgently in order to issue as soon as possible an exemption for the requirement under the Planning and Building Law for a building permit for construction of essential infrastructure needed for moving the embassy to Jerusalem. "I am thankful for having the privilege as minister of finance and being responsible for planning in Israel to facilitate the moving of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, our eternal capital," Kahlon said.

The final decision rests with the National Planning and Building Council, which has the authority to issue an exemption from a permit, thereby eliminating the possibility of objections to the work.

Published by Globes [online], Israel Business News - www.globes-online.com - on March 21, 2018

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2018

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US Consulate-General Israel Photo: Reuters
US Consulate-General Israel Photo: Reuters
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