Five months after President Donald Trump made his blockbuster announcement in December, it’s really happening.
The new U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem, which will inhabit an existing U.S. consular building, will officially open its doors Monday at 4 p.m. in a 90-minute ceremony led by U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman.
Trump will address Monday’s ceremony by video, and he’ll be represented by his daughter and adviser Ivanka Trump and son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner. The U.S. expects some 800 people to attend the event, including a congressional delegation and a presidential delegation led by Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan.
The American delegation touched down Sunday afternoon, and following a reception with the Israeli Foreign Ministry, dined at the prime minister’s house.
Earlier in the evening, in front of a very friendly and very enthusiastic crowd, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu heaped praise on President Trump.
“Thank you, President Trump, for your bold decision,” Netanyahu said. “Thank you for making the alliance between Israel and the United States stronger than ever.
“Now, you know how you recognize real leadership? It’s when others follow, and others are following in President Trump’s footsteps,” he said, telling the crowd that Guatemala and Paraguay would both move their embassies later this week.
He hinted at others, quipping: “That’s a state secret, and we don’t reveal our state secrets. Sometimes we reveal other’s state secrets. We’ll let you know as time comes.”
The actual building is currently used for American consular services, including passport renewals, and visa and immigration services.
It’s located in the Jewish residential neighborhood of Arnona — in part in no man’s land between East and West Jerusalem — but it’s not a fortress, like the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv. It’s also not a beautiful old Ottoman-era building like the current U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem, which is located closer to the Old City.
Friedman, who has been a loud supporter of this move from day one, has also been clear that he considers the embassy in “Jerusalem, Israel,” making no distinction between Palestinian-majority east and Israeli-majority west.
Palestinians see East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state. But for many Palestinians, failing to make the distinction all but ignores the existence of Palestinians.
“It takes away the hopes in having Jerusalem or parts of Jerusalem as the future capital of Palestine if a deal is to be struck between Palestinians and Israelis,” Jerusalem resident, Ahmad Muna, 28, said Sunday.
He added: “When Trump announced the move, he didn’t mention Palestinians and didn’t mention east or west Jerusalem. … They’ve given all the claim, all the rights, of all the parts to the Israelis,” Muna said, adding that he no longer believes the U.S. is interested in peace.
U.S. officials insist they are, but no American member of the delegation will meet with Palestinians on this trip. When Trump announced the move, he said his decision marked “the beginning of a new approach to conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.”
Einat Wilf, a former Israeli parliament member who supports the two-state solution, told reporters Sunday that for Israelis, the embassy opening doesn’t change all that much.
“Israelis have been living for 70 years with the knowledge that the western part of the city is their capital,” she said.
“So, yes, Israelis welcome recognizing reality. … It’s not as if this changes reality, but it is important to have an international acknowledgment.”
Plus, Israelis were rather busy this weekend with the biggest news in the country: their Eurovision win. And now it’s rumored that 25-year-old winner, Netta Barzilai, may just be a guest of honor at today’s ceremony.
Congratulations from Israel to ALL talented performers!