US embassy moves to Jerusalem; riots break out on Gaza border

Donald Trump likes to remind people that he keeps his promises, and today he’ll get bragging rights on one that other presidents have failed to deliver. The US embassy will transfer from Tel Aviv to an existing consulate in Jerusalem, fulfilling an act of Congress from over twenty years ago that had been postponed in hopes of reaching a settlement between the Israelis and Palestinians. Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump will be on hand to watch the festivities, but riots in Gaza have overshadowed the celebration, at least so far:

At least 18 people have been killed by the Israeli military and more than 1,000 injured in Palestinian protests today as the U.S. officially moves its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, according to the Gaza Health Ministry.

Crowds in Gaza swelled to an estimated 30,000 by 2:30 p.m., 90 minutes before the new U.S. embassy was slated to officially open in the Arnona neighborhood of Jerusalem. Protests on previous days have tended to increase after the 2:30 p.m. call to prayer. …

A 21-year-old and a 29-year-old were among the first killed by Israeli soldiers, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. In the last seven weeks, more than 50 Palestinians have been killed in protests along the Gaza border, according to the Gaza Health Ministry.

The casualty count has bounced around for the morning. At the time of this writing, some media outlets put it at 25, but the number is expected to go up. Palestinians in Gaza have been massing at the border for the last few weeks, attempting to breach it at a barbed-wide fence while throwing stones and explosive devices ahead of them. The protest is expected to culminate today, but there will be other demonstrations in the West Bank and in Jerusalem itself.

In the rest of Jerusalem and Israel, expect large celebrations amid very tight security:

The windy road leading up to the city was decorated with fluttering American and Israeli flags Monday as signs everywhere declared “Trump, Make Israel Great.” A popular soccer team even renamed itself: “Beitar Trump Jerusalem.”

Jerusalem is ready — sort of — for the official opening of the U.S. Embassy in a city at the epicenter of the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

For most of Jerusalem’s residents, the wider Israeli public and the country’s leaders, the official move of the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem is a cause for huge celebration.

Israel feels vindicated by the Trump administration’s decision to recognize its capital as Jerusalem. It declared sovereignty over the city 51 years ago following the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, but most countries do not recognize Israel’s rule over the city, where a third of the residents are Palestinian. And most states say their embassies will remain in Tel Aviv until Israelis and Palestinians reach some sort of peace agreement.

Donald Trump won’t be on hand himself to celebrate. He will address the crowd via video conferencing during the ceremony. His family members and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin will represent Trump at the ceremony, but it’s difficult to believe that Trump will wait long to pay his first visit to the embassy. Israel has been demonstrating its affection for Trump ever since this decision, and Trump likes to bask in that kind of public display.

Only time will tell if this move will bring peace in the long run, of course, although it’s clear that the next few days will be fraught for Israel. The truth, however, is that withholding this recognition has done nothing for peace either. Palestinians rioted in Gaza before now, and they’ll riot in Gaza after this too. Several intifadas took place between Oslo and the 2016 election. This has nothing to do with Trump or with where our embassy is located. The Arab nations that used to control these territories lost them in two wars of aggression, and Israel has sovereignty over Jerusalem as a practical truth. Pretending otherwise only prolongs a fantasy that has become a deadly trap for everyone living in the region.

Israel needs a two-state solution. They do not want to absorb the Palestinians and grant them a vote, which would destroy the Jewish nature of their state. However, the Palestinians will never get a state until they truly embrace a two-state solution and give up their plans to recapture Israel for their own. Their leadership as late as last month continued to feed them the conspiracy theories about Israelis not being real Jews and that Hitler founded the modern state of Israel. Mahmoud Abbas got caught at it and offered a half-baked non-apology apology, which demonstrates just how deeply this denial runs in Palestinian circles.

If nothing else, the embassy move makes reality clear.