By: Ilan Ben Zion
The State Department has put the ambassador to Israel’s official residence outside Tel Aviv up for sale, in a decision aimed at cementing the American embassy’s controversial move to Jerusalem.
The beachfront mansion in the affluent Tel Aviv suburb of Herzliya is going on the market because most of Ambassador David Friedman’s day-to-day activities are based at the embassy in Jerusalem, the State Department said.
“Following the decision to move the embassy to Jerusalem it made sense to sell the residence in Herzliya,” it said. “Much of the embassy’s operations have shifted to Jerusalem and the ambassador has established an official residence there.”
The Trump administration moved the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in 2018, shortly after recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Friedman, a long-time supporter of Israel’s hard-line settler movement, played a leading role in the embassy’s move.
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 capital of a future state.
The presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, Joe Biden, said in April that he considered the Trump administration’s decision to move the embassy “short-sighted and frivolous,” but said he would not move it back to Tel Aviv if elected president in November.
News of the residence’s sale was first published in the Israeli business newspaper Globes on Monday. The paper said the house, which sits on a 1.25- acre (0.5 hectare) plot of land, has a roughly $87 million asking price. If it sells at that price, it would be the most expensive residential sale in the country, topping Russian-Israeli billionaire Roman Abramovich’s recent purchase of a home in Herzliya for $65 million earlier this year.
The State Department said the sale is expected to go forward in the coming months.