Israeli embassy mulls a move

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Few embassies in Oslo have been as controversial and unwelcome at their current locations as those belonging to the Americans and the Israelis. The US Embassy now finally seems to have found a new location and newspaper Aften reports that Israel’s embassy has started looking at new sites, but it likely will be years before packing boxes arrive at either one.

The embassies of both the US and Israel are considered terrorist targets, and few want them in their neighbourhoods. Yet both have remained firmly planted in fashionable, central locations that pose a security challenge both to themselves and to those around them.

The drama around the US Embassy has raged for years but may be nearing its final acts. City officials recently gave a nod to building plans fora new embassy complex at Huseby, northwest of downtown.

Now newspaper Aften reports that Israel’s embassy, just up the street from the US Embassy’s current location, has started looking at alternative locations as well. Israel’s existing embassy on Parkveien has long attracted complaints from neighbours, city politicians and preservationists, because it’s been a target of demonstrators unhappy with Israel’s politics. The sometimes violent demonstrations have disrupted life in an otherwise relatively quiet neighborhood, resulted in forced closure of Parkveien (a heavily trafficked cross-town street) and spurred construction of a controversial security wall around the old mansion in which the embassy is housed.The wall has irritated neighbours and architectural purists, and the city deemed it illegal. The embassy was granted “temporary” permission to let it stand, however, 10 years ago. That permission runs out next month.

Now the embassy is seeking a six-year extension to keep the wall up, to give it more time to arrange a move. Aften reports that in a letter to city planning officials, Ambassador Michael Eligal wrote that the embassy is in contact with real estate brokers and looking for an alternative location. Norway’s foreign ministry confirmed that it’s tried to help its Israeli colleagues, offering as many 30 prospective sites for the Israelis to consider.

The process will take time, though, hence the request for a six-year extension for the wall. It’s likely to spark new debate, as will new sites once their locations become known.

“We respect the embassy’s security needs but look forward to more normal everyday life,” one of the embassy’s current neighbours, Erik Bøhler, told Aften . ” He’s not happy with the embassy’s request for an extension of the illegal wall that’s already stood for 10 years.

“Today’s situation was supposed to be temporary,” Bøhler said. “They (embassy officials) should have been doing something about it during all this time that’s already passed.”