Sheldon Adelson speaks during an inteview.
(photo credit: REUTERS/TYRONE SIU)
WASHINGTON – Lawyers with the State Department are considering an offer from Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire casino mogul and one of the largest donors in Republican politics, to fund the construction of the new US embassy in Jerusalem.
Adelson has long supported the move, and he conditioned his donations to the 2016 Republican presidential nominee, Donald Trump, on his vow to execute on a once-empty campaign promise from past presidents of both parties.
Trump announced that he would initiate moving the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to the ancient city in December, to the joy of Israelis and the fury of Palestinians
. That embassy will open officially in a limited capacity this May, timed with Israel's 70th celebration of independence, in a refurbished consular facility in Arnona.
Visiting Israel last month, Vice President Mike Pence had predicted the move would take place by the end of 2019. But US officials tell The Jerusalem Post
that the existing plan, to convert the Arnona facility, has been in the works for over a month.
PM Netanyahu statement about the American Embassy move (GPO)
Moving the US embassy to Jerusalem is expected to cost at least $500 million, according to State Department officials, and such costs are typically covered by the American taxpayer.
US media reported "concern" among Adelson's own confidantes and friends that the move would be seen as the privatization of American foreign policy. Adelson – who is also a fierce backer of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's – personally lobbied Trump to relocate the embassy on several occasions.
Steve Goldstein, the under secretary for public diplomacy, confirmed on Friday that the administration was considering whether it would be legal and ethical to accept the gift.