US embassy opens in Jerusalem amid massive protests by Palestinians in Gaza
Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images(JERUSALEM) — The U.S. today officially opened its new embassy in Jerusalem amid massive protests by Palestinians.
The move of the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem comes five months after President Donald Trump made his blockbuster announcement of the change in December.
The new diplomatic office, in what was an existing U.S. consular building, was opened in a ceremony led by U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman and attended by Israeli and American leaders.
The day has also been marked by violence, with at least 41 Palestinians killed by Israeli military forces and more than 1,600 injured in protests at the Gaza border against the embassy move, according to the Gaza Ministry of Health.
“Today’s historic event is attributed to the vision, the courage, and the moral clarity of one person to whom we owe an enormous and eternal debt of gratitude — President Donald Trump,” Friedman said to a standing ovation at the ceremony.
Trump addressed Monday’s ceremony by video, celebrating the historic move and saying the U.S. “extended a hand in friendship” to the Israelis, Palestinians, and their neighbors and remains “committed to facilitating a lasting peace agreement” between them.
The U.S. was represented by Trump’s presidential delegation, led by Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan and including daughter and adviser Ivanka Trump and son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner. The U.S. expected some 800 people to attend the event, including a congressional delegation with Republican Senators Lindsey Graham, Ted Cruz, Dean Heller, and Mike Lee.
“While presidents before him have backed down from their pledge to move the American embassy once they were in office, this president delivered — because when President Trump makes a promise, he keeps it,” Kushner said to the crowd.
Among other prominent people present was Republican megadonor Sheldon Adelson, who was seated next to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and who unveiled the seal of the United States on the side of the new embassy.
“On behalf of the 45th president of the United States, we welcome you officially and for the first time to the embassy of the United States, here in Jerusalem, the capital of Israel,” Ivanka Trump said after the seal was revealed.
The American delegation touched down Sunday afternoon, and following a reception with the Israeli Foreign Ministry, dined at the prime minister’s house.
Earlier in the evening, in front of a very friendly and very enthusiastic crowd, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu heaped praise on President Trump.
“Thank you, President Trump, for your bold decision,” Netanyahu said. “Thank you for making the alliance between Israel and the United States stronger than ever.
“Now, you know how you recognize real leadership? It’s when others follow, and others are following in President Trump’s footsteps,” he said, telling the crowd that Guatemala and Paraguay would both move their embassies later this week.
He hinted at others, quipping: “That’s a state secret, and we don’t reveal our state secrets. Sometimes we reveal other’s state secrets. We’ll let you know as time comes.”
The actual building is currently used for American consular services, including passport renewals, and visa and immigration services.
It’s located in the Jewish residential neighborhood of Arnona — in part in no man’s land between East and West Jerusalem — but it’s not a fortress, like the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv. It’s also not a beautiful old Ottoman-era building like the current U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem, which is located closer to the Old City.
Friedman, who has been a loud supporter of this move from day one, has also been clear that he considers the embassy in “Jerusalem, Israel,” making no distinction between Palestinian-majority east and Israeli-majority west.
alestinians see East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state. But for many Palestinians, failing to make the distinction all but ignores the existence of Palestinians.
“It takes away the hopes in having Jerusalem or parts of Jerusalem as the future capital of Palestine if a deal is to be struck between Palestinians and Israelis,” Jerusalem resident, Ahmad Muna, 28, said Sunday.
He added: “When Trump announced the move, he didn’t mention Palestinians and didn’t mention east or west Jerusalem. … They’ve given all the claim, all the rights, of all the parts to the Israelis,” Muna said, adding that he no longer believes the U.S. is interested in peace.
U.S. officials insist they are, but no American member of the delegation will meet with Palestinians on this trip. When Trump announced the move, he said his decision marked “the beginning of a new approach to conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.”
Einat Wilf, a former Israeli parliament member who supports the two-state solution, told reporters Sunday that for Israelis, the embassy opening doesn’t change all that much.
“Israelis have been living for 70 years with the knowledge that the western part of the city is their capital,” she said.
“So, yes, Israelis welcome recognizing reality. … It’s not as if this changes reality, but it is important to have an international acknowledgment.”
Plus, Israelis were rather busy this weekend with the biggest news in the country: their Eurovision win. And now it’s rumored that 25-year-old winner, Netta Barzilai, may just be a guest of honor at today’s ceremony.
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