Trump slashes $1 billion budget request for Jerusalem embassy move

Trump slashes $1 billion budget request for Jerusalem embassy move
The US embassy move will be part of an existing consular facility to cut costs announced President Donald Trump after baulking at the $1 billion proposed budget.
3 min read
28 April, 2018
Trump rejected a plan to move the embassy for a $1 billion budget [Getty]
The US will spend less than half a million dollars on moving its embassy to Jerusalem, after US President Donald Trump rejected a plan to spend $1 billion on the project.

Trump said on Friday in a joint press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel that the US will spend less than half a million dollars instead of a planned $1 billion.

Speaking at the press conference, Trump described how he was about to sign off the proposal before spotting the eye-watering figure of $1 billion and called it off.

"The papers were put before me to sign an application for more than $1 billion to build an embassy," said Trump.

"I had my name half signed, then I noticed the figure and I didn't. I never got to the word 'Trump'. I had 'Donald' signed but I never got to the word 'Trump'."

US ambassador to Israel David Friedman allegedly told the president that the embassy move could be done for a mere $150,000.

"He said I can build it for $150,000 - the embassy. We have a building, we have the site. We already own the site, we own the building.

"I can take a corner of the building and for $150,000, we can fix it up, make it beautiful, open our embassy. Instead of in 10 years from now we can open it up in three months.

"And that's what we did. But I said, 'David, let's not go from $1 billion to $150,000. Let's go to $300,000, $400,000.' That's what we did. We will take a piece of the building. It is going to be beautiful. And it will be somewhat temporary but it could be for many years.

"That's the way government works. They were going to spend $1 billion and we're going to spend much less than $500,000."

An existing US consular facility in Jerusalem will be retrofitted in order to speed up the process instead of a new building being built.

"I may go. I'm very proud of it,"  Trump told reporters  to the embassy opening planned 14 May.

Trump broke with decades of US policy in December by recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and declaring he would move the country's embassy to the contested city.

Jerusalem is a key issue in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the move has caused widespread anger in the region and garnered international condemnation.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said the United States had disqualified itself as a mediator. "We will no longer accept that it has a role in the political process," he said at the time.

Abbas's office said that "Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the state of Palestine, and is not for sale for gold or billions", with other senior officials adding they will not be "blackmailed" by Trump's threat of aid cuts.

Both the Palestinian territories and the Gaza Strip have seen daily protests and Palestinians have clashed with Israeli troops. Over 80 Palestinians have been killed since Trump's announcement on 6 December.

Israel regards Jerusalem as its "undivided" capital, a position nearly the entire world rejects saying its status should be determined in peace talks with the Palestinians.

Under international law, East Jerusalem is considered occupied Palestinian territory.