Republican mega-donor Sheldon Adelson has offered to help pay for at least a part of a new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem and the Trump administration is thinking about the proposal, according to four U.S. officials, who added that State Department lawyers are currently looking into the legality of accepting private donations to cover costs for the embassy.
The embassy is clearing its final bureaucratic hurdles and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson signed Thursday a security plan for moving the embassy from Tel Aviv to the holy city, thus ending weeks of delay, Associated Press reports.
One of the officials noted that Adelson, a staunch supporter of Israel, is offering to pay whatever the administration is unable to raise in order to build the embassy. A possible scenario is that the administration would seek contributions not only from Adelson but possibly from other donors in the evangelical Christian and American Jewish communities.
In any case, letting private citizens cover the costs of an official government building would mark a significant departure from historical U.S. practice. In this case, it would also add to the controversy surrounding Trump’s politically charged decision to move the embassy, considering Adelson’s longstanding affiliation with right-wing Israeli politics.
However, for now, it remains unclear whether government lawyers would give the green light to accept Adelson’s or anyone else’s donations for the embassy. Adelson’s offer was made around the same time as the president’s controversial decision.
Since Trump’s announcement, his administration has been considering options for the swift relocation of the Israel embassy. Last month, Vice President Mike Pence announced during a visit to Israel that the embassy would move by the end of 2019 or even earlier. Ambassador David Friedman has advocated moving the embassy as soon as possible.
A possible location is the Arnona neighborhood in a pre-existing U.S. facility.