Ivanka Trump along with Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday. (Source: Ivanka Trump/Twitter)
The US on Monday opened its embassy in Jerusalem, a city at the epicenter of the Israel-Palestinian conflict, even as protests erupted over its transfer from Tel Aviv. Palestinians clashed with Israeli soldiers, who shot at least 37 protesters in Gaza, in the deadliest escalation of violence since 2014. Even though US President Donald Trump was not present at the opening ceremony, he hailed the development as “a great day for Israel” in a tweet.
A high-level American delegation, including deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan, Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and senior adviser and daughter Ivanka Trump, graced the opening ceremony. Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was also present in the historic event.
Timed to coincide with 70th anniversary of Israel’s formation, the inauguration ceremony of the embassy started with the singing of the American anthem and the presentation of colours by US Marines. US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman noted that America, which became the first country to recognise the state of Israel, had now taken “a step awaited, voted upon, and litigated and prayed for for all these years”. “Again the US leads the way,” he said. Friedman further said the embassy move was the result of the “vision, the courage, and the moral clarity” of Trump, to whom we own an “enormous and eternal debt of gratitude”.
On December last year, Trump announced the decision to move the embassy to Jerusalem after he formally recognised the city as the capital of Israel, breaking away from decades of US neutrality on the senstitive issue. The embassy move is contentious for Palestinians, who hope to claim part of the city as their future capital.
Chaos descended after tens of thousands of Palestinians attempted to cross the border fence separating Israel from Gaza in opposition to the embassy move. NYT quoted the health ministry as saying that 37 Palestinians, including several teenagers, were dead and at least 1,000 were injured in Gaza. Israeli soldiers and snipers used tear gas as well as gunfire to keep protesters from entering Israeli territory. The soldiers said they were forced to open fire after the protesters started hurling explosives and many flew flaming kites into Israel.