Neither President Donald Trump nor Vice President Mike Pence will be in attendance when the US opens its embassy in Jerusalem next week.
The White House says Mr Trump is instead sending a high-level delegation to the ceremony marking the formal recognition by the US of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
The President ordered the embassy move last year, fulfilling a key campaign promise but drawing condemnation from many US allies, who say the move makes it more difficult to achieve peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
The White House says Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan is leading the delegation at the new embassy opening, joined by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and the President’s daughter and son-in-law, White House aides Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner.
Mr Trump had left the door open to personally attending the embassy opening.
The news comes as at least three US Embassy road signs have gone up in Jerusalem ahead of next week’s opening of the mission.
A Reuters witness saw workmen installing the signs, in English, Hebrew and Arabic, near the south Jerusalem location of a US consulate building that will be repurposed as the embassy when it is officially relocated from Tel Aviv on May 14.
Mr Trump announced the move in December, saying he was making good on US legislation and presidential pledges, dating back decades, to back Israel’s designation of Jerusalem as its capital.
Other world powers have not done so, sidestepping one of the thorniest disputes between Israel and the Palestinians, and Trump’s policy shift drew consternation among some US allies.
The Palestinians want their own state with a capital in East Jerusalem, which Israel captured from Jordanian control in the 1967 war and annexed in a move not recognised abroad.
“This move is not only illegal but will also thwart the achievement of a just and lasting peace between two sovereign and democratic states on the 1967 borders, Israel and Palestine living side by side in peace and security,” Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said in a statement.
The Trump administration has left the diplomatic door open for a possible Palestinian presence in Jerusalem, however.
“By recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and the seat of its government, we’re recognising reality,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said during a visit to Israel last week.
“I also stress, as President Trump has said in December, the boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem remain subject to negotiations between the parties, and we remain committed to achieving a lasting and comprehensive peace that offers a brighter future for both Israel and the Palestinians.”
Street signs in Israel have sometimes fallen victim to political vandalism, with Jews erasing Arabic or Arabs the Hebrew. An Israeli police spokesman played down such prospects for the US embassy signs.
“We’re not guarding the embassy signs but of course there is upgraded security around the embassy which is already being implemented,” he said.
“There are also new CCTV cameras that have been set up in the area. The perimeter and all movement in the area are being closely watched.”