The U.S. State Department said the new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem will open in May 2018, to coincide with the 70th anniversary of Israel’s declaration of independence.
The State Department called the move a “historic step” in a statement issued on Friday. The announcement means the relocation comes much faster than expected. In late January, Vice President Mike Pence said the controversial embassy would open in 2019.
The U.S. decision to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem prompted deadly protests in Palestine and solidarity rallies across the world.
For Palestinians, May 15 marks Nakba Day, or the “catastrophe”, when they commemorate the mass displacement of Palestinians to make way for the state of Israel.
Between 1947 and 1949, at least 750,000 Palestinians, out of a population of 1.9 million, were expelled from or fled their homes in Palestine.
A senior Palestinian official told news agency AFP the announcement was “a provocation to Arabs” and a “blatant violation of international law”.
Saeb Erekat, Palestine Liberation Organization secretary-general, said the result would be “the destruction of the two-state option”.
Israel Katz, Israeli intelligence minister, thanked Trump for the announcement.
“There is no greater gift than that! The most just and correct move. Thanks friend!” Katz said in a tweet.
Israel proclaimed its independence on May 14, 1948.