Fifty-eight Palestinians were killed and 2,700 were injured in one of the most violent days along the Palestinian/Israeli border in years. The violence came amidst protests that began on March 30 and had already seen dozens of casualties.
The protests are in response to the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem a city scared to both Israelis and Palestinians, and one both sides see as the future capital of their respective states.
President Trump, in a controversial move, declared Jerusalem the capital of Israel and ordered the U.S. State Department to relocate the U.S. Embassy there in December. The move was seen throughout the Arab world as an indication the U.S. was abandoning any pretense of impartiality in the Palestinian/Israeli conflict.
The administration announced at the time that the move would take years to complete. It would subsequently announce that it would happen in May of this year, months, if not years, ahead of schedule. Palestinians responded by boycotting the peace process run by the U.S.
“The United States has excluded itself from the peace process, they can no longer mediate in the Middle Eastern settlement. They have become a party to the conflict, which rules out the possibility of participation in the peace process,” Palestinian National Authority (PA) Foreign Minister Riyad Maliki said in an address to the Arab League in Cairo in December.
The U.S. Embassy opened today in Jerusalem on the 70th Anniversary of the founding of the state of Israel.
The U.S. “remains fully committed to facilitating a lasting peace agreement,” President Trump said in a recorded address to the crowd gathered at the ceremony.
The President’s son-in-law, along with his wife, First Daughter Ivanka Trump led the U.S. delegation to the opening, which included Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. “When there is peace in this region, we will look back upon this day and will remember that the journey to peace started with a strong America recognizing the truth,” Kushner said, addressing the crowd.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu struck a much more defiant tone. “What a glorious day,” Netanyahu said. “Remember this moment! This is history! President Trump, by recognizing history, you have made history.”
“We are in Jerusalem and we are here to stay. We are here in Jerusalem protected by the great soldiers of the army of Israel and our brave soldiers are protecting the border of Israel as we speak today,” he added.
The protesters that had gathered along the border were urged forward toward a border fence by other protestors. They were fired upon by Israeli soldiers using tear gas and live ammunition. Hamas, the political organization that governs Gaza independent of the Palestinian Authority, said the purpose of the demonstrations was to “confront the embassy deal.”
“The American administration bears responsibility for all consequences following the implementation of this unjust decision,” said Khalil al-Hayyah, Hamas’ deputy leader. “This crime will not pass.”
“From a U.S. perspective, it was always unclear what strategic purpose moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem was serving. The Trump administration continues to insist that the move will bring Israelis and Palestinians closer to peace and accepts the regional reality,” Dalia Dassa Kaye, Director of the Center for Middle East Public Policy and a senior political scientist at the RAND Corporation, told ITN.
“But it seems unrealistic to believe that a policy move that isolates the United States, increases Palestinian despair and inflames regional tensions is helpful for peace, or U.S. interests for that matter.”
Even more protestors are expected to attempt to cross the border on Tuesday. May 15 is a day of observance for Palestinians. It is the anniversary of what they call the Nakba, or catastrophe. The day hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were expelled from their lands in the newly-founded state of Israel, who have been unable to return or reclaim property left behind.
Photo by Israeli Defense Forces