'We have not felt for a moment the US has forgotten the embassy'

Although imminent embassy move remains unclear, US reportedly plowing ahead with groundwork ahead of announcement.

Tal Polon, | updated: 14:16

US Embassy in Tel Aviv
US Embassy in Tel Aviv

Although it remains unclear whether the transfer of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem lies in the immediate horizon, it seems that US officials have been taking concrete steps in recent weeks to lay the groundwork for that move.

According to Channel 2, in recent weeks, a representative of the Trump administration has come to see the site designated for the establishment of the embassy, the Diplomat Hotel in the Arnona neighborhood of Jerusalem. The US, the report said, is cooperating with a well-known Jerusalem-based architect who is serving as a liaison between Trump's representatives and the Jerusalem Building and Planning Committee, which is ultimately responsible for approving the US embassy construction plans.

According to the report, documents submitted to local planning officials indicate that initial building plans have already been formulated. The plan includes the construction of fortified rooms, escape routes, new entrances and exits that do not currently exist in the the hotel complex, underground rooms, structural fortifications, and other security measures outside of the building such as fences, security cameras, and a guard post.

US officials have also reportedly requested that Jerusalem planning authorities prevent high-rise construction in the area near the planned embassy.

“The Americans have already submitted initial sketches, and our understanding is that they plan to completely remodel the place from the inside,” a city official told Channel 2. “An American architect who builds all the American embassies is coming here to check the site.”

Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem and Chairman of the local Building and Planning Committee Meir Turgeman added, “We have not felt for a moment that the Americans have forgotten the embassy. They are always in the area around the hotel checking all the details. In practice, they have never stopped checking the area here.”

On Friday, Reuters reported according to an unnamed senior US official that Trump is expected to deliver a speech on Wednesday recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

The comments followed a report on Thursday that Trump was considering recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel as a gift to Israel on the occasion of its 70th Independence Day.

Two administration officials said, however, that even as Trump considers the declaration of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, he is expected to again sign the waiver delaying the US embassy move from Tel Aviv. The waiver must be renewed every six months, since Congress passed a law authorizing the move and legally must be informed of the reason for its delay.

Last Wednesday, Channel 2 reported that senior officials in Jerusalem said that the Israeli government expected the White House in the coming days to announce the embassy move and the formation of a special team to implement the move.

However, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders later denied that any such announcement was imminent.

"This is a premature report,” said Huckabee Sanders. “We have nothing to announce.”