Jerusalem: The United States opened its embassy to Israel in Jerusalem at a dedication ceremony, today, Monday. Ambassador David M. Friedman presided over the dedication ceremony and Deputy Secretary John J. Sullivan led the Presidential Delegation to the historic opening along with Secretary of Treasury Steven Mnuchin, Senior Advisor Jared Kushner, Advisor Ivanka Trump, and Special Representative for International Negotiations Jason Greenblatt.
The American delegation also included a total of 250 guests of honor, including congressmen and religious leaders
Foreign diplomats in attendance included the ambassadors of Austria, Romania, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Bulgaria, while the ambassadors of Germany and France are reportedly among those that declined their invitations in a show of protest against the relocation.
“As the President stated on December 6, 2017, the historic opening of our embassy recognizes the reality that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and the seat of its government. Seventy years ago, the United States, under President Harry S Truman, became the first nation to recognize the State of Israel. Moving our Embassy is not a departure from our strong commitment to facilitate a lasting peace deal; rather it is a necessary condition for it. We are not taking a position on final status issues, including the specific boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem, nor on the resolution of contested borders.
Consulate General Jerusalem will continue to operate as an independent mission with an unchanged mandate responsible for U.S. relations with the Palestinians and the Palestinian Authority. The United States continues to support the status quo with regard to the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount. The Administration is firmly committed to pursuing a lasting and comprehensive peace between Israel and the Palestinians that promises a brighter future for both.” the U.S. Department Of State said.
Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip planned protests in opposition to the embassy’s relocation. Clashes erupted along the Gaza-Israel border ahead of today’s opening of the US Embassy in Jerusalem. Dozens of Palestinians have been killed from Israeli fire, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry.
Thousands of people have gathered near the border to take part in protests.
Israel droped leaflets, warning Palestinians in Gaza they will be risking their lives if they approach the border during the planned mass protest.
The Trump administration has said that the Jerusalem declaration did not determine a “specific boundary” for Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem, but Palestinians saw the move as endorsing Israeli control over the entire city.
The Israeli government applauded Trump’s move, saying he acknowledged the Jewish historical connection to the holy city, while the Palestinian Authority, which claims East Jerusalem for their future capital, was outraged.
Israel captured the eastern half of Jerusalem in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war and annexed the territory in a move that was never internationally recognized.
The U.S. for decades has not taken a stance on Jerusalem, hoping the competing territorial claims would be resolved through Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations.
The embassy building is part of the US consulate compound in Jerusalem. A US state department official said it will serve as an interim office for the US ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, along with a small number of staff, as the US locates and builds a permanent embassy compound.
US President Donald Trump, in December, announced the recognition of Jerusalem as capital of Israel and also gave a directive to the US State Department to begin the process of moving the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, upending decades of U.S. policy.
A ribbon-cutting was then planned for today, May 14th. Israel proclaimed independence on May 14, 1948. The new U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem is opening in May 2018 to coincide with the 70th anniversary of Israel declaring independence.
Initially, the embassy will consist of just a few offices inside an existing U.S. facility in Jerusalem.
“The Embassy will initially be located in Arnona, on a compound that currently houses the consular operations of Consulate General Jerusalem,” he continued. “At least initially, it will consist of the Ambassador and a small team.” officials said.
Palestinians refer to Israel’s establishment in 1948 as the Nakba, which means catastrophe in English.
Nakba Day is annually marked on May 15, the anniversary of Israel’s independence according to the Gregorian Calendar. Israel celebrates its independence day based on the Hebrew calendar. In 2018, Independence Day celebrations are slated to take place on April 18-19.
The announcement came even as US allies expressed concerns that the move will scuttle any chance at advancing peace efforts.
Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, called Trump’s remarks a “historic landmark” and urged other countries to follow suit by moving their embassies to Jerusalem. The Israeli prime minister added that any future peace deal with Palestinians must include Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Jerusalem is sacred in Christianity, Islam and Judaism. Disputes there have prompted violence and protests not just in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories but around the Middle East.”
Since 1995, when Congress passed a law ordering the U.S. Embassy to be moved to Jerusalem, successive presidents have issued a series of six-month waivers to forestall the move.
The Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 declared that Jerusalem had been the capital of Israel since 1950 and noted that the city has been administered entirely by Israel since it captured East Jerusalem in the 1967 Six Day War.
It calls for Jerusalem to “remain an undivided city in which the rights of every ethnic and religious group are protected,” for Jerusalem to be recognized as the capital of Israel and for the embassy to be moved by May 31, 1999.
It allows however for the president to sign a waiver every six months to suspend action “to protect the national security interests of the United States.”
Every president since 1995 has regularly done so. When Trump signed the waiver six months ago, he noted his intention to eventually move the embassy and his actions Wednesday begin a process that is expected to take years.
Despite Trump signing a proclamation on Jerusalem’s status as the capital, US officials said he would sign the Jerusalem Embassy Act waiver because financial penalties against the State Department would go into place if the embassy is not yet opened and the waiver has not been signed.
Construction of a new embassy requires stringent security measures and must meet other requirements that will take at least three to four years, if not longer, officials said.
The international community does not recognize Israel’s claim to the entire city, largely considering East Jerusalem, including the Old City, to be part of Palestine.
Jerusalem is sacred for the followers of three major religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
At the heart of the dispute is the legal status of East Jerusalem. Israel proclaimed its ownership over East Jerusalem after the Six-Day War Israel fought with Egypt and Syria in in 1967, a move that has not been recognized by the majority of UN states and international organizations.
As the political status of Jerusalem has not been recognized internationally, there are no foreign embassies located in Jerusalem.
Palestinians want to create an independent state on the territories of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, partially occupied by Israel, and the Gaza Strip, and want Israel to withdraw from the Palestinian territories it seized during the Six-Day War.
In 1980, the Israeli Parliament passed the Jerusalem Law declaring Jerusalem the unified capital of Israel. The action has not been recognized by any other country, including the United States.
Israel sees an undivided Jerusalem as its capital while Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state.
One hundred and fifty-one member states in the United Nations General Assembly voted to condemn Israel’s claim to an undivided Jerusalem. The United States was one of just six countries to vote against the resolution. Nine states abstained.
128 countries in the United Nations General Assembly, UNGA, later voted in favour of a Turkey and Yemen sponsored resolution condemning USA’s Jerusalem decision and only 9 countries opposed it. The resolution asks the United States to withdraw its decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, as the US threatened cuts in retaliation.
Australia, Canada, Mexico and the Philippines were among those who abstained in the emergency vote called by Turkey and Yemen after the US vetoed the same resolution in the UN Security Council earlier that week.
The Arab League will hold an extraordinary meeting to discuss Washington’s “illegal” move of embassy to Jerusalem, MENA state news agency reported an Arab diplomat as saying on Monday. The meeting will be held on Wednesday at the level of permanent representatives to the Arab League “to counter the illegal decision taken by the US to transfer its embassy to Jerusalem,” the diplomat said.