JERUSALEM (JTA) — Required renovations to the U.S. Embassy in Israel have been neglected due to long-running vacillation over its relocation to Jerusalem, a U.S. State Department audit found.
The redacted Office of Inspector General report, dated March and posted on the State Department website, largely praisesthe Tel Aviv mission but notes "a number of internal problems that affect its ability to operate efficiently."
Among these are the "inadequate, dilapidated, unsafe facilities" in which many staff have to work, the report said, linking the neglect to a de facto moratorium on embassy construction.
"In 1995, Congress passed legislation requiring the movement of the embassy to Jerusalem and prohibiting the construction of any diplomatic facilities except in Jerusalem," it said. "Consecutive administrations have determined that moving the embassy to Jerusalem would carry significant negative foreign policy implications, which has led to regular executive branch waivers and severely constrains spending on the existing buildings."
The audit was conducted in October 2010, as relations between the Obama administration and the Netanyahu government hit a nadir.
"A fragile Israeli coalition government leans toward the views of its members from the nationalistic and religious right, creating a challenge for diplomats seeking to build support for U.S. policies," the OIG report said.
It noted the high traffic of American visitors to Israel that is handled by the embassy, saying this helps "ensure the embassy’s regular access to Israeli Government officials and secure public attention that would otherwise be more difficult to obtain."
"Given the intersection of U.S. foreign policy objectives, high-profile domestic attention to Israel, and historically intransigent issues, Embassy Tel Aviv’s leadership faces challenges matched in intensity in only three or four other world capitals," the report said.