Middle East

US sells ambassador home in Israel, securing Jerusalem move

JERUSALEM (AP) — The US Embassy said Tuesday the State Department has sold the ambassador’s official residence near Tel Aviv — a decision that cements the embassy’s controversial move to Jerusalem.

In an announcement, the embassy did not identify the buyer or disclose the sale price. But Israeli media had said the sprawling seaside compound in the upscale town of Herzliya had an asking price of over US$80 million.

“The buyer was selected solely on the basis of having submitted the highest and best offer. The selected buyer and the unsuccessful bidders have been notified,” it said.

A report in the Israeli financial news outlet Globes identified the buyer as US casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, a major supporter and financial backer of President Donald Trump. Representatives for Adelson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Trump administration moved the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in 2018, shortly after recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Ambassador David Friedman, a long-time supporter of Israel’s hard-line settler movement, played a leading role in the embassy’s move. The official residence is expected to be vacated in spring 2021, the embassy said.

Most foreign delegations have their embassies in Tel Aviv because of Jerusalem’s contested status.

Israel’s parliament, supreme court, president’s residence, and most ministries are headquartered in Jerusalem. But the Palestinians claim east Jerusalem —which Israel captured in 1967 and later annexed in a move unrecognized by most of the international community — as the capital of a future state.

The Democratic presidential nominee, Joe Biden, has called the Trump administration’s decision to move the embassy “short-sighted and frivolous,” but he has said he would not move it back to Tel Aviv if elected president in November.

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