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U.S. tells Israel 'you are not alone' as Jerusalem embassy set to open

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U.S. tells Israel 'you are not alone' as Jerusalem embassy set to open

© Copyright :
Ronen Zvulun
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JERUSALEM — The United States will open its new embassy in Jerusalem on Monday, a relocation that has already sparked both celebration and deadly protests.

It fulfills a promise by President Donald Trump to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, having already recognized the disputed city as Israel's capital.

The decision has delighted the Israeli government but angered the Palestinians, as well as concerning some Western allies who say it will further destabilize the region and hamper the peace process.

Hours before Monday's opening ceremony, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin defended the decision by saying it was "consistent with the interests of the national security of America."

He is part of the U.S. delegation attending the event scheduled for 4 p.m. local time (9 a.m. ET), along with the president's daughter, Ivanka Trump, and her husband Jared Kushner.

Around 800 guests have been invited. The president will address the crowd via video message.

"This historic day would not have happened without the moral clarity and effort of the president of the United States, Donald Trump," U.S. Ambassador David Friedman told a pre-ceremony event Monday. "I want to tell my Jewish friends ... when it comes to our values, to the State of Israel, you are not alone."

While Mnuchin was making the comments about national security, thousands of people gathered at the security fence between Israel and Gaza in protests that had already turned deadly.

Israeli officials say the Gaza demonstrations are nothing more than cover for terrorist attacks and that they are instigated by Hamas, the dominant political group in Gaza that the U.S. classes as a terrorist organization.

Compounding tension over the embassy move, Tuesday marks the 70th anniversary of what the Palestinians call the "nakba," or catastrophe, when hundreds of thousands of people were uprooted during Israel's creation in 1948.

Palestinian leaders have also called for protests across the West Bank on Monday.

The new embassy will be housed in what was the U.S. consulate until a larger site can be found.

U.S. and Israeli flags adorned the streets around the compound, and police said the tight security would involve units on patrol as well as security balloons.

Moving the embassy breaks with decades of Washington policy and distances the U.S. from its allies, who have kept their embassies in Tel Aviv.

Israel captured east Jerusalem in the 1967 war and annexed it in a move not recognized internationally.

The Palestinians want east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state, and view the relocation of the embassy from Tel Aviv to the contested city as a one-sided move that invalidates the U.S. as a Mideast peace broker.