Embassy Opening Celebrated During Gaza Violence

Embassy Opening Celebrated During Gaza Violence

The White House and the prime minister see the Jerusalem embassy as a step toward peace.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem. (Photo by Kobi Gideon, Government Press Office)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem. (Photo by Kobi Gideon, Government Press Office)

The United States opened its embassy to Israel in Jerusalem on Monday, May 14, the 70th anniversary of Israel’s Declaration of Independence.

“Remember this moment. This is history. President Trump, by recognizing history, you have made history,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at the ceremony celebrating the move of the diplomatic mission from Tel Aviv. “All of us are deeply moved. All of us are deeply grateful.”

It was the day after Yom Yerushalayim, marking the 51st anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem, and the day before the Palestinian observance of Nakhba (Catastrophe) Day.

The joyous ceremony in Jerusalem came while an estimated 40,000 Gazans launched the biggest and most violent of six weeks of border protests, including efforts to bomb and charge through the fence, gunfire, and incendiary devices. The result was the largest casualty totals of the March of Return movement, with 58 Palestinians killed and some 2,700 injured.

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat welcomes Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and the rest of the White House delegation. (Photo by Jacki Levy, Jerusalem Municipality)

“As we have seen from the protests of the last month and even today, those provoking violence are part of the problem and not part of the solution,” Jared Kushner, representing his father-in-law, President Donald Trump, said at the embassy ceremony.

“What today is about is following through on what the president promised and believes and is also a recognition of reality,” White House spokesman Raj Shah said in Washington.

The U.S. delegation in Jerusalem included Ambassador David Friedman, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and about a dozen Republican members of Congress. The work to convert a consulate into an embassy cost $400,000.

“It is an honor to be here today to celebrate with dear friends of Jerusalem. Today is a historic day for the eternal capital of the Jewish people,” said Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, who hosted a reception for the Americans. “When I began my work in public service for Jerusalem, our goal was to bring Jerusalem back to its former glory — to make Jerusalem great again. By taking the bold step of moving the U.S. Embassy to its rightful place in Jerusalem, President Trump is helping us make Jerusalem great again by recognizing 3,000 years of history.”

Netanyahu said the embassy opening was a great day for Israel, America and peace.

“A peace that is built on lies will crash on the rocks of Middle Eastern reality. You can only build peace on truth, and the truth is that Jerusalem has been and will always be the capital of the Jewish people, the capital of the Jewish state,” he said.

Meanwhile, nations other than the United States expressed various degrees of outrage at the deaths on the Gaza border. South Africa and Turkey recalled their ambassadors, and other nations urged Israel to exercise restraint and even spoke of possible war crimes.

None, however, offered meaningful suggestions for how to peacefully repel thousands of people determined to charge across a border and carry out violence. Directions issued by Hamas on social media and interviews with some of the March of Return participants revealed intentions to kill or kidnap Israelis.

“We are here in Jerusalem, protected by the brave soldiers of the army of Israel, led by our chief of staff, Gadi Eisenkot, and our brave soldiers,” Netanyahu said. “Our brave soldiers are protecting the borders of Israel as we speak today. We salute them all, and the members of our security forces, the Shin Bet and the Mossad.”

A White House statement said the embassy move will advance efforts to reach a comprehensive peace deal, to which the administration remains committed. Trump sees the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital as a condition of any peace deal while also insisting that the final status of Jerusalem is up to the Israelis and Palestinians to negotiate.

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