Amid violent Palestinian protests, the U.S. officially opened a new embassy in Jerusalem on Monday, drawing effusive praise from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“Today, today, the embassy of the most powerful nation on earth, our greatest ally, the United States of America, opened here,” Netanyahu said at a ceremony marking the event.
“God bless the United States of America and God bless Jerusalem, the eternal undivided capital of Israel,” he said.
Meanwhile, the health ministry in Gaza run by Hamas, a U.S.-declared terrorist organization, claimed dozens of Palestinians protesting at the border were killed by Israeli fire. The Israeli military said it was repelling an effort by Hamas to breach the border. The Palestinians were commemorating Nakba Day, the “catastrophe” of Israel’s founding 70 years ago.
Netanyahu praised President Trump for his decision in December to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the U.S. Embassy. When the date for the embassy opening was announced in February, coinciding with the founding of Israel, PLO Secretary-General Saeb Erekat called the move a “flagrant violation of international law and agreements” signed between the Palestinians and Israel that will “destroy” the two-state solution.
Netanyahu urged the approximately 800 guests at the dedication of the new embassy building Monday in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Arnona to “remember this moment.”
“This is history,” he said. “President Trump, by recognizing history, you have made history.”
In attendance, representing the U.S., were Ambassador David Friedman, Deputy Secretary of State John J. Sullivan, Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, the president’s daughter and adviser Ivanka Trump, and Special Representative for International Negotiations Jason Greenblatt.
‘We are here to stay’
Netanyahu recounted the history of the city, established, he said, as a capital by King David 3,000 years ago.
“King Solomon later built the Temple, and over 2,000 years later, we got to hear the sentence ‘The Temple Mount is in our hands.’ We are here in Jerusalem, and we are here to stay,” he said.
Netanyahu compared the moment historically to the Balfour Declaration of 1917 and the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948.
The prime minister, amid the violent Palestinian protests, said it’s also “a good day for peace.”
“You can only build peace upon truth, and the truth is that Jerusalem has been the capital of Israel for 3,000 years,” he said. “May the opening of this embassy spread the truth far and wide.”
The Arab League planned to hold an extraordinary meeting Monday to discuss the United State’s “illegal” move of its embassy to Jerusalem, reported the state news agency MENA, according to Reuters.
High-level representatives to the Arab League will meet “to counter the illegal decision taken by the United States of America to transfer its embassy to Jerusalem,” the report said.
Iran, denouncing Trump as “feeble-minded,” called on the Palestinians and the international community to engage in resistance, the Times of Israel reported.
“America has entered a crisis of strategic decision-making that looks at the international arena immaturely and adventurously,” said parliament speaker Ali Larijani at a conference on the Palestinian situation in Tehran.
Al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri urged Muslims to take up arms and carry out jihad against the United States, saying the embassy move was evidence that negotiations and “appeasement” have failed Palestinians, reported France 24
In a video titled “Tel Aviv is Also a Land of Muslims,” Zawahiri said Trump “was clear and explicit, and he revealed the true face of the modern Crusade, where standing down and appeasement does not work with them, but only resistance through the call and jihad,” according to a transcript provided by the SITE monitoring agency.
Two Jewish lobby groups in the U.S. expressed opposing views of the embassy relocation.
AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, called it a “momentous day for the U.S.-Israel relationship” and urged other nations to follow Washington’s lead.
The left-leaning J Street, meanwhile, asserted the move “has only undermined the prospects for peace, exacerbated tensions and undercut U.S. standing as an effective mediator.”
“This isn’t policy – it’s pandering to a narrow political base,” said J Street president Jeremy Ben-Ami.
British Prime Minister Theresa May said Monday the United Kingdom had no plans to move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, the Times of Israel reported.
A spokesman noted that the U.K. expressed disagreement in December when Trump made the announcement.
“The British embassy to Israel is based in Tel Aviv and we have no plans to move it,” the spokesman said.
Clinton, Bush, Obama supported embassy move
Britain was one of 128 countries that voted in favor of a United Nations General Assembly resolution in December declaring Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel “null and void.” Nine countries voted against it.
The announcement in December sparked violent protests in the Middle East and a call from Hamas for an uprising against Israel.
The Trump administration’s move fulfilled the requirements of a 1995 law that was adopted overwhelmingly by the Senate (93-5) and the House (374-37).
When Trump announced the decision, he reiterated his commitment to peace in the Middle East, noting the previous policy of not recognizing “the reality” that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital brought us “no closer to a lasting peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.”
The Palestinian leadership, Fatah and Hamas, claims the Jewish people have falsified their 3,000 year-old history to lay claim to Jerusalem. The holy city, the Palestinians insist, is “Palestinian” and must be the capital of a future Palestinian state.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital a milestone.
“There are major moments in the history of Zionism: the Balfour Declaration, the founding of the state, the liberation of Jerusalem and Trump’s announcement yesterday,” he said in a video posted to social media.
Hamas, meanwhile, said the decision “opens the gates of hell” and called for several days of protests.
After the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 was passed, Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama signed every six months a waiver incorporated in the law allowing the president to delay its implementation for national security reasons.
Trump signed the waiver in June but decided in December to finally implement the law.
The three presidents who chose to delay enacting the Jerusalem Embassy Act nevertheless affirmed publicly that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital, and two of them said they supported moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem.
Obama, a Democrat, told AIPAC in 2008 that Jerusalem “will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided. I have no illusions that this will be easy.”
Bush, a Republican, promised during the 2000 campaign that “as soon as I take office I will begin the process of moving the U.S. ambassador to the city Israel has chosen as its capital.”
And Clinton, a Democrat, entered office in 1993 saying he supported “the principle” of moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem.