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Israel Scrambles After Trump Says He May Still Attend Jerusalem Embassy Opening

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli officials told local media they were surprised to learn that President Trump may still travel to Israel for the opening of the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem.

When asked during a news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday who would be among the 250-person-strong delegation attending the opening of the controversial Jerusalem embassy, Trump told reporters that “I may go. Very proud of it.”

Trump’s name was not on the documents provided to Israel by the United States regarding the U.S. delegation scheduled to attend the May 14 ceremony, Hadashot news reported.

Trump also said during the news conference on Friday that he had nearly signed a plan for relocating and constructing a new embassy at a cost of $1 billion, but then rejected the plan in favor of one that will cost between $300,000 and $400,000. He added that U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman had recommended a pared-down plan that would only cost $150,000 by simply converting the existing consular facility.

The new embassy initially will be housed in southern Jerusalem, in the Arnona neighborhood, on a compound that currently houses the consular operations of the Consulate General of Jerusalem.

Friedman and some staff will begin working out of the consular section beginning in May. In the second phase, by the end of 2019, an annex on site will be constructed for a more permanent working space for the ambassador, staff and a classified processing site. The third phase, the site selection and construction of a new embassy, will take up to nine years.

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