US ambassador’s luxury Israel residence sold to mysterious buyer
For over 70 years the property in Tel Aviv - the diplomatic hub in Israel - was used to house American ambassadors, but this appears set to change after the controversial 2018 opening of the US embassy in the contested city of Jerusalem.
The US embassy did not reveal how much it had been sold for, just saying it went for "the highest and best offer".
It is thought that the villa, which was built on the exclusive neighbourhood of Herzliya Pituach, is worth some $87 million, local news outlets report.
Las Vegas casino magnate and GOP donor Sheldon Adelson reportedly had a hand to play in the villa's sale.
The sale was precipitated earlier this year "following the decision to move the embassy to Jerusalem", the embassy said at the time.
"It made sense to sell the residence in Herzliya. Much of the embassy’s operations have shifted to Jerusalem and the ambassador has established an official residence there.
"There are no plans or agreements to continue leasing or renting the property for the use of Ambassador Friedman or for other government use once possession is delivered to the purchaser in the Spring of 2021," the embassy stated.
It is unclear whether US Ambassador David Friedman will live in the house until then, however, local media outlets reported that he will continue to rent the home.Donald Trump's 2017 decision to move the embassy to Jerusalem was met with opposition from the Palestinian Authority as well as human rights groups across the world.
The move signalled a shift in US foreign policy recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and the embassy was officially opened in May 2018.
Despite this move by the US, most countries refuse to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, following UN resolutions on the matter, maintaining embassies in Tel Aviv instead.
Earlier this week a senior Palestinian official warned that the Palestinian Authority would cut ties with any country which transfers its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Saeb Erekat, the General Secretary of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), who has led Palestinian attempts to negotiate with Israel in the past, said on Twitter: "Palestine will sever its relations with any country that will move or open its embassy to Jerusalem.
"We urge all nation states to abide by international law, including Security Council resolutions 478 and 2334. Violating international law is a sign of weakness not strength."