In a further move that reflects American recognition of Israeli control over East Jerusalem, the mayor of Jerusalem yesterday authorized the U.S. Embassy to expand its buildings by around 700 square meters, the mayor's office said. The outgoing Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat said he was "happy and proud" to announce the authorization, as reported by German news service dpa.
The expansion plans come six months after the U.S. administration's controversial decision to relocate its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital. Both moves caused global outcry. The U.S. also announced in October that it would close its consulate in Jerusalem, which was mostly used by Palestinians. It will be replaced by a separate department in the new embassy.
"In its initial phase, the embassy in Jerusalem contained office space for the ambassador and a small staff," a U.S. Embassy spokeswoman said in early November, adding that "the second phase" of building would be completed by summer 2019 and would allow for more staff from Tel Aviv to relocate. U.S. President Donald Trump outraged the Arab world and stoked international concern by recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital in December. Palestinians sued the U.S. at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for the first time over the Jerusalem Embassy move that violates international obligations flowing from the Vienna Convention. The status of Jerusalem is one of the thorniest disputes between Israel and the Palestinians and Palestinian leaders accused Trump of sowing instability by overturning decades of U.S. policy.