Jerusalem welcomes the new US Embassy as Palestinians decry 'hostile' move
Israelis wave national flags outside the Old City's Damascus Gate, in Jerusalem, Sunday, May 13, 2018. Israel is marking the 51st anniversary of its capture of east Jerusalem in the 1967 Middle East war. (Ariel Schalit/AP) May 14 at 6:12 AM Email the author
JERUSALEM â" The windy road leading up to the city was decorated with fluttering American and Israeli flags Monday as signs everywhere declared âTrump, Make Israel Great.â A popular soccer team even renamed itself: âBeitar Trump Jerusalem.â
Jerusalem is ready â" sort of â" for the official opening of the U.S. Embassy in a city at the epicenter of the Israel-Palestinian conflict.
For most of Jerusalemâs reside nts, the wider Israeli public and the countryâs leaders, the official move of the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem is a cause for huge celebration.
Israel feels vindicated by the Trump administrationâs decision to recognize its capital as Jerusalem. It declared sovereignty over the city 51 years ago following the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, but most countries do not recognize Israelâs rule over the city, where a third of the residents are Palestinian. And most states say their embassies will remain in Tel Aviv until Israelis and Palestinians reach some sort of peace agreement.
Palestinians and others â" including some U.S. allies â" see the U.S. decision as a provocative step that undermines any changes of an eventual peace accord. In Cairo, the Arab League called a crisis meeting to discuss the âillegalâ U.S. embassy shift.
âThis is a hostile act against international law and against the people of Palestine,â said Saeb Erekat, secretary Âgeneral of the Palestine Liberation Organization. âIt places the U.S. on the side of the occupying power.â
A young girl holds a placard reading "Al Quds belongs to muslims" on May 11, 2018 in Istanbul, during a demonstration against President Trumpâs controversial decision to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. (Ozan Kose/AFP/Getty Images)
[Gaza protests flare ahead of embassy ceremonies]
The inauguration will take place at the site of the new embassy, which is really the existing consulate, just with a spanking new plaque. President Trump will not attend, but he planned to address the high-profile crowd, including his daughter Ivanka, son-in-law Jared Kushner and a host of political, religious and communal leaders, via live video linkup.
At a celebratory breakfast in Jerusalem, Justice Minister Ay elet Shaked called Trump the âChurchill of the 21st century.â
âHe has reversed Chamberlainâs policy of capitulation and teaches the world that âthe landowner has returned,â said Shaked at an event attended by members of the visiting White House delegation, making a reference to Britainâs prewar prime minister, Neville Chamberlain.
âEurope insists upon not learning from history,â Shaked added. âIt closed its eyes to the strengthening of the Nazis; today it is choosing to close its eyes to the strengthening of Iran. In such a reality in particular, it is good that the leader of the free world is President Trump.â
[A pro soccer team in Israel wants to rename itself in Trumpâs honor]
A day earlier, at a special âThank you Americaâ event at Israelâs Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a crowd â" including 250 visiting U.S. senators, congressmen, community and religious leaders â" that Monday âw ill be a historic day for our people and for our state.â
âPresident Trumpâs decision to move the embassy to Jerusalem affirms a great and simple truth: Jerusalem has been the capital of the Jewish people for the past 3,000 years. Itâs been the capital of our state for the past 70 years. It will remain our capital for all time,â said Netanyahu, who later hosted members of the official White House delegation at a celebratory dinner.
Palestinians view it as a major betrayal of Washingtonâs decades-old role as a potential broker for a peace deal with Israel.
âOutside of the U.S. and a few other countries, most of the world is against this move,â said Ayman Odeh, leader of the Arab faction in Israelâs parliament, who despite being invited to the opening ceremony is consciously objecting by boycotting the event.
âMost want to see peace created along the lines that existed in 1967,â he said. âThis is a one-sided move that strengthens occupation and moves us further from peace.â
[As Ivanka and Jared join embassy party in Jerusalem, Gaza braces for violence]
Palestinians are planning to protest the move at events planned throughout Jerusalem and the West Bank. Israeli police spokesman, Micky Rosenfeld, said that security forces were on high alert for what is expected to be a tense few days.
On Tuesday, Palestinians mark the Nakba, Arabic for âcatastrophe,â a term used for the flight and expulsion of an estimated 700,000 Palestinians seven decades ago upon Israelâs creation. The day also draws large protests.
But the largest demonstrations will likely take place in the coastal enclave of Gaza, where there has already been several weeks of unrest, with some 49 Palestinians killed by Israeli soldiers and more than 2,000 wounded.
In Jerusalem, those who arrived to celebrate the opening of the new embassy dismissed claims that the move undermines the chances for peace be tween Israelis and Palestinians.
Traveling with the official delegation, Senator Lindsey O. Graham said that now was the âright timeâ to move the embassy.
âItâs been U.S. policy since 1995 and if you have a problem then need to take it up with God,â said Graham, referring to legislation approved by Congress. The legislation included a waiver allowing presidents to delay the move by six months at a time, which has been used by successive presidents until now.
[In 1995, Congress reached a compromise on the issue of Jerusalem. Trump is poised to end it.]
âIn a fractured Middle East now is the time for America to have Israelâs back,â said Graham. âIf there ever are two states then maybe the Palestinians will make east Jerusalem their capital, only time will tell.â
âWeâve had presidents who promised to move the embassy but not kept their promise and they were praised, now we have a president who has kept his promise and he is c riticized,â said Alan Dershowitz, a prominent lawyer who lately has proven an advocate for the Trump administration.
He said he did not believe the move undercut the process of reaching peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
âObama did that by not vetoing the U.N. resolution against Israeli settlements. Trump has revived the status quo and is ready to restart the process. But the Palestinians wonât get a state without negotiating,â said Dershowitz.
Also among those visiting are some prominent Christian Zionist and evangelical leaders who have been instrumental in shaping Trumpâs Jerusalem policy. Some see the embassy move as fulfilling a divine prophecy.
Pastor Robert Jeffress, a Fox News contributor and megachurch Baptist preacher from Dallas, is scheduled to lead a prayer at the opening of Mondayâs ceremony. Jeffress has caused controversy for disparaging views on other religions, particularly Islam.
But Mike Evans, an Americ an Christian Zionist who runs the Friends of Zion center in Jerusalem and paid for the citywide banners celebrating Trump, says this is a âpragmatic move.â
âThe embassy dedication is a statement of no longer tolerating evil and is a game changer for the Middle East,â he said.
Trumpâs national security adviser, John Bolton, asserted that moving the embassy from Tel Aviv is âa recognition of realityâ that ends the United States and Israel âoperating on a completely different wavelength.â
âRecognizing reality always enhances the chances for peace,â Bolton added.
Trumpâs decision to open Jerusalem embassy complicates promise to seek Middle East peace
New U.S. embassy in Jerusalem: A stone plaque and $400,000 in renovations, for now
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