This afternoon, 800 invited guests witnessed the opening of the US Embassy in Jerusalem's Arnona neighborhood. The transfer of the embassy from Tel Aviv consists for the moment of a new plaque on the existing premises of the US consulate. As the guests assembled for the event, news came in of a growing number of Palestinian casualties in protests at the border fence separating Israel from the Gaza Strip. 52 Palestinians are reported killed in the protests, in which some 40,000 Palestinians are estimated to have taken part. Among the casualties are members of the Hamas security forces.
The ceremony was attended by the president of the State of Israel Reuven Rivlin, speaker of the Knesset Yuli Edelstein, government ministers and party leaders, apart from Meretz leader Tamar Zandberg and Arab Joint List leader Ayman Odeh. Heads of the security forces also attended, including chief of staff Gadi Eizenkot, Mossad chief Yossi Cohen, and Israel Police chief Roni Alsheich.
The event was opened by US Ambassador David Friedman, who said that it could not have taken place without "the vision, the courage, and the moral clarity" of US President Donald Trump.
Friedman recalled the day when the US Congress passed the law calling for the US Embassy to be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and one of the initiators of the law, Senator Joe Lieberman, who was also present at today's event. The US delegation also included Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan, President Trump's special envoy to the Middle East Jason Greenblatt, Governor of Florida Rick Scott, Senators Lindsey Graham, Ted Cruz, Mike Lee and Dean Heller, Congressmen Joe Wilson and Ted Deutch, President Trump's daughter Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner.
"Today, we keep our promise to the American people, and we extend to Israel the same right that we extend to every other nation, the right to designate its capital city," Friedman said.
In a video recording, President Trump said, "Israel is a sovereign nation, with the right, like any other sovereign nation, to determine its own capital… The United States will always be a great friend of Israel and a partner in the cause of freedom and peace." President Trump added that US would continue to observe the status quo in Jerusalem and of the holy places, including the Temple Mount. "The US will always be a great friend of Israel and a partner in the cause of freedom and peace. We extend a hand in friendship to Israel, the Palestinians and to all of their neighbors," the president said.
It was Treasury Secretary Mnuchin who unveiled the dedication plaque designating the consular building as the new US Embassy in Jerusalem, to loud applause.
Thanking President Trump for his decision to move the embassy, President Rivlin said, "In every US election, every presidential candidate has promised to move the American embassy to Jerusalem. Finally, we have a leader who promised this and also kept his promise. And for this, we give thanks, that we have arrived at this place, at this time. “President Trump, the Israeli people, thank you for keeping your word, for your courage, for your determination, and for your firm, unwavering stand alongside the State of Israel. We hope and expect that other nations will follow your path and your leadership. We will continue to safeguard Jerusalem, as the city of peace, as a city home to all those of faith. A city of all its residents and citizens, of all religions and communities, who share together, one city, which is so greatly loved.”
President Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner also spoke, saying, "When President Trump makes a promise, he keeps it," and added, "As Israel turns 70, the search for lasting peace turns over a new leaf: one of realism, and of courage to stand with our allies for what is right and what is true." He drew applause when he referred to President Trump's decision to withdraw from the nuclear agreement with Iran and to "new and important" alliances in the Middle East.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also thanked President Trump, saying the friendship between Israel and the US was stronger than ever. He related at how he would wander the Arnona neighborhood in Jerusalem as a child, and his mother would warn him about sniper fire from across the nearby border. "It was here in Jerusalem that Israeli soldiers moved us when they said 'the Temple Mount is in our hands'. We are here to stay."
Netanyahu also praised the soldiers "who are defending our borders at this moment. Remember these moments, these are historic days."
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on May 14, 2018
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