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Jerusalem Embassy Opens Amid Celebration and Violence

         5/15/2018

Palestinian protesters

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

The new U.S. embassy in Israel officially opened in Jerusalem on Monday following President Trump’s formal recognition of the holy city as the country’s capital. It was met by celebration in Israel and mass protests on the Gaza strip by Palestinians.

President Trump said in a recorded statement, "Today we officially opened the United States embassy in Jerusalem. Congratulations. It's been a long time coming. For many years we failed to acknowledge the obvious, the plain reality that Israel's capital is Jerusalem." He called it a “great day for Israel” in a tweet.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan were both at the opening ceremony, along with Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner. Kushner has been tasked by President Trump to broker a peace deal between the Israelis and Palestinians.

This was a key campaign promise from Donald Trump, and yet another that he has kept: "We will move the American embassy to the eternal capital of the Jewish people, Jerusalem."

Trump isn’t the only president to declare his intentions to move the U.S. embassy; both former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush also pledged to move the embassy — only to abandon the idea once in the White House. Congress approved in 1995 the funding and relocation of the embassy to Jerusalem by 1999. But the law included a stipulation, allowing for presidents to sign continuous waivers to stall the relocation. Every president since had used the waiver in an effort to avoid conflict with the peace negotiations.

“The long-delayed, symbolic move addresses a historic injustice: Israel is the only country in the world not allowed to choose its own capital,” said Jim Phillips, a senior research fellow for Middle Eastern affairs at the conservative Heritage Foundation. He said the step “could have a positive impact in the long run if it shocks Palestinian and other Arab leaders into recognizing that the longer they wait to genuinely accept Israel’s existence and sign a peace treaty, the less they can expect to gain from such a treaty.”

The Christian Evangelists have certainly watched the news carefully as well. Pastor John Hagee, the founder and senior pastor of Cornerstone Church, a megachurch in San Antonio, Texas, said in an interview, "I can assure you that 60 million evangelicals are watching this promise closely because if President Trump moves the embassy into Jerusalem, he will historically step into immortality," Hagee said. "He will be remembered for thousands of years for his act of courage to treat Israel like we already treat other nations."

The day was bloody, however. No fewer than 10 explosive devices targeting Israelis were detonated during the day’s violent Hamas-led riots at the Gaza-Israel border; gunfire was reported on at least 3 occasions; 17 kites carrying firebombs were dispatched into Israel, igniting 23 fires. At least 52 Palestinians were killed and over 1,000 injured in clashes with the Israeli Defense Force. The opening coincided with the 70th anniversary of Israel's establishment, an occasion marked by Palestinians as the “nakba,” or “catastrophe,” in which hundreds of thousands of them fled or were expelled from their homes. Hamas is a terrorist organization whose stated objective is the destruction of Israel.

The White House stated that the violence in Gaza would not hinder its efforts to seek an end to the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians, but the administration also made it abundantly clear on Monday that Mr. Trump was currently siding with Israel.

“The responsibility for these tragic deaths rest squarely with Hamas,” said Raj Shah, a White House deputy press secretary. “Hamas is intentionally and cynically provoking this response, and as the secretary of state said, Israel has the right to defend itself.”

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