The United States officially opened its embassy in Jerusalem Monday afternoon amid clashes between Israeli security forces and Palestinians at the Gaza border that have killed dozens of protesters and wounded hundreds more.
In his address at the ceremony, which took place at the former American consulate in the Arnona neighborhood, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said of the embassy's opening "this is history" and, addressing the U.S. president, said: "Trump, by recognizing history, you have made history."
According to Netanyahu, "you can only build peace on truth and the truth is that Jerusalem has always been and will always will be the capital of the Jewish people, of the Jewish state." Netanyahu thanked Israeli security forces for their services and said "we are in Jerusalem and we are here to stay."
Netanyahu started his speech by welcoming the Israeli and U.S. officials present at the ceremony, saying "we have no better friends in the world, you stand for Israel and you stand for Jerusalem, thank you."
Speaking directly to Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, Netanyahu said "your presence here today is a testament to the importance of this occasion, not only to the Trump Administration, but in a very personal for you, for the pursuit of peace." Addressing U.S. Envoy to Israel David Friedman, Netanyahu said "you're privileged to become the first American ambassador to serve your country from Jerusalem."
In his address to the ceremony's audience via sattelite, U.S. President Donald Trump said the move has "been a long time coming" and that as a sovereign nation, Israel has the right to determine the location of its capital. Trump added that the U.S. remains committed to facilitating a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.
After Trump's remarks, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin pulled off the curtain covering the embassy's plaque followed by remarks by Ivanka Trump, Trump's daughter and top adviser.
Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser, said in his address that "those provoking violence are part of the problem and not part of the solution." Kushner continued by saying that "We believe, it is possible for both sides to gain more than they give – so that all people can live in peace – safe from danger, free from fear, and able to pursue their dreams.
"Jerusalem must remain a city that brings people of all faiths together," Kushner said. He kicked his speech off by saying that the truth has finally been recognized: "that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel." According to Kushner, "by moving our embassy, we have shown the world once again that the U.S. can be trusted."
In his speech, President Reuven Rivlin said "all people in the city are equal" and described Jerusalem as "a city of peace" where "all its residents of all religions and communities share" the city together. Addressing Trump, Rivlin said "the Israeli people thank you for your courage."
Friedman kicked off the ceremony, saying that seventy years after America was the first nation to recognize Israel, it now becomes the first nation to move its embassy to Jerusalem.
After Friedman introduced the U.S. and Israeli officials present at the ceremony, pastor Robert Jeffress took the stage. The Christian leader has a history of hateful comments against Muslims, Mormons, gay people and Jews.
Festivities surrounding the opening got off to an early start with an 8:30 A.M. bagel breakfast celebration by the Israeli office of the Orthodox Union and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. Among the attendees were Trump White House negotiator Jason Greenblatt and Israel’s Education Minister Naftali Bennett.
Palestinians throughout the West Bank and Jerusalem were urged to turn out en masse to protest the move. In Ramallah and El Bireh, the marches started at 11 A.M. and proceed to the Qalandiyah Checkpoint near Jerusalem. Marchers also set out from other cities, including Bethlehem, Hebron, Nablus and Jericho. Thousands of policemen were deployed throughout Jerusalem in preparation.
Meanwhile, clashes erupted at the Gaza border between Israeli security forces and tens of thousands of Palestinians protesting the embassy move. Dozens of protesters have been killed by Israeli live fire and hundreds more have been wounded. The Israeli military struck several Hamas targets in Gaza and is bracing for rocket fire from Hamas later in the day.
Condemnations of the move were heard throughout the Middle East over the past few days, with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan saying it serves to "reward" the Israeli government despite the fact that it undermines efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Erdogan added that the U.S. is disregarding "rights and justice," ignoring the international community.
The speaker of Iran's parliament warned Sunday that moving the embassy will inflame tensions in the Middle East and urged Muslim countries to take more serious measures in response to Trump's "wrong and unwise decision."
Want to enjoy 'Zen' reading - with no ads and just the article? Subscribe todaySubscribe now