Trump says US embassy in Jerusalem will cost only $250,000
Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — President Donald Trump said the new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem will cost $250,000 in a meeting at the White House with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday – not the $1 billion he says his staff estimated – but his remarks created confusion.
“We’ll have it built very quickly,” Trump said. “A lot of people wouldn’t be doing it quickly like that. But we’re going to have it built very quickly and very inexpensively.”
“They put an order in front of my desk last week for a billion dollars. I said, ‘A billion? What’s that for?’ I said, ‘We’re not going to spend a billion dollars.’ And we’re actually doing it for about $250,000. So check that out,” he said.
“Now, it’s temporary, but it’ll be very nice. Two hundred and fifty thousand dollars versus a billion dollars. Is that good?” Trump said.
It wasn’t clear whether Trump might have been referring to State Department plans to quickly modify the current consulate in Jerusalem while a new embassy is built. State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said last month that the U.S. ambassador and a small staff will begin working at the temporary embassy this spring, with plans for a new embassy facility to open on the compound by the end of next year.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders tried to clarify Trump’s remarks in a press briefing on Monday.
“I think the point is that he’s making is he’s going to do it faster and far less expensive than a billion dollar project as was projected,” said Sanders.
In December, Trump announced his controversial plan to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem – a decision that has been met by praise – and criticism – from leaders around the world.
“Jerusalem was a wonderful thing. And I know it was very much appreciated” said Trump. “That was a decision that I had to make. Many presidents were discussing whether or not to make that decision and they promised it in campaigns but were never able to do what they should have done. So I was able to do it.”
In the Oval Office, Netanyahu thanked Trump for following through on his promise.
“Other leaders talked about it,” said Netanyahu. “You did it. I want to thank you on behalf of the people of Israel.”
Trump said that he “may” visit Jerusalem for the opening of the new embassy.
In addition to discussing the embassy move, the two were expected to discuss ongoing Middle East peace negotiations and the United States’ nuclear deal with Iran.
“I think we have a very good chance,” Trump said of finding a solution for peace between Israel and Palestine. “This is the hardest deal. This is years and years of opposition and frankly hatred and a lot of things,” said Trump “I will tell you that if we could do peace between Israel and the Palestinians, that would be a great thing for the world. It would be a great thing for this country and for everybody. So we’re working very hard on it.”
Netanyahu named Iran as the greatest challenge facing the United States and Israel in the Middle East. “Iran must be stopped. That is our common challenge,” said Netanyahu. “If I had to say what is our greatest challenge in the Middle East to both our countries, to our Arab neighbors, it’s encapsulated in one word: Iran. Iran has not given up its nuclear ambitions.”
Jared Kushner, who Trump put in charge of handling negotiating Middle East peace, but who recently had his security clearance downgraded to “secret,” attended the meeting with Trump and Netanyahu, according to a White House official. Sunday at Blair House, Kushner met with Prime Minister Netanyahu, Assistant to the President Jason Greenblatt, and Ambassador David Friedman.
The two leaders last met at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. This will be the fifth time Trump and Netanyahu have met.
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Netanyahu will meet with lawmakers on Capitol Hill and address the American Israel Public Affairs Committee Policy Conference in Washington, D.C.
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