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U.S. to open Jerusalem embassy in May for Israel's 70th anniversary

U.S. to open Jerusalem embassy in May for Israel's 70th anniversary

WASHINGTON-The State Department is set to begin operating its embassy in Jerusalem in May and is entertaining an unusual offer from Sheldon Adelson, Republican Party donor and casino magnate, to help pay for a new facility after an initial move from Tel Aviv, U.S. officials said.

The US will open its new Israeli embassy in Jerusalem in May - marking a move from Tel Aviv that reverses decades of American policy and infuriates Palestinians, officials said Friday.

Palestinians want East Jerusalem to be the capital of their future state.

Palestinians reacted to the news with anger.

"Thank you, President Trump, for your leadership and friendship", Mr Netanyahu said.

The decision to move the embassy was widely condemned by the worldwide community over concerns the action would undermine the prospects for a peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians.

Vice President Mike Pence, visiting Jerusalem last month, gave the first sign that the embassy transfer was being accelerated, when he announced to the Israeli Knesset, or parliament, that the move would take place by the end of 2019. Days after Trump declared that Washington had officially recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, Rex Tillerson said it was unlikely to happen before 2020.

Congress was told of the May opening date for the new embassy on Friday. "Jerusalem was the right thing to do".

The status of Jerusalem - home to sites holy to the Muslim, Jewish and Christian religions - has been one of the thorniest issues in long-running Mideast peace efforts. "The opening will coincide with Israel's 70th anniversary", State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert in a statement.

Lawyers at the State Department were looking into the legality of accepting private donations, the report said.

The White House is considering an offer from casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, a major contributor to Republicans and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, to help fund the construction of the new United States embassy building in Jerusalem, the Associated Press has reported. The Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, told Trump: "May your house be destroyed".

Denouncing the decision as "provocative to the feelings of all Arabs and Muslims", Erekat pointed out that the United States administration's date for moving the embassy to Jerusalem coincided with the Nakba anniversary.