Jerusalem ready to embrace the new U.S. embassy – The Denver Post

 In U.S.
By Ruth Eglash, The Washington Post

JERUSALEM – 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.

Palestinians and others – including some U.S. allies – see the U.S. decision as a provocative step that undermines any changes of an eventual peace accord. In Cairo, the Arab League called a crisis meeting to discuss the “illegal” U.S. embassy shift.

“This is a hostile act against international law and against the people of Palestine,” said Saeb Erekat, secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organization. “It places the U.S. on the side of the occupying power.”

The inauguration will take place at the site of the new embassy, which is really the existing consulate, just with a spanking new plaque. President Donald Trump will not attend, but he planned to address the high-profile crowd, including his daughter Ivanka, son-in-law Jared Kushner and a host of political, religious and communal leaders, via live video linkup.

At a celebratory breakfast in Jerusalem, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked called Trump the “Churchill of the 21st century.”

“He has reversed Chamberlain’s policy of capitulation and teaches the world that “the landowner has returned,” said Shaked at an event attended by members of the visiting White House delegation, making a reference to Britain’s prewar prime minister, Neville Chamberlain.

“Europe insists upon not learning from history,” Shaked added. “It closed its eyes to the strengthening of the Nazis; today it is choosing to close its eyes to the strengthening of Iran. In such a reality in particular, it is good that the leader of the free world is President Trump.”

A day earlier, at a special “Thank you America” event at Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a crowd – including 250 visiting U.S. senators, congressmen, community and religious leaders – that Monday “will be a historic day for our people and for our state.”

“President Trump’s decision to move the embassy to Jerusalem affirms a great and simple truth: Jerusalem has been the capital of the Jewish people for the past 3,000 years. It’s been the capital of our state for the past 70 years. It will remain our capital for all time,” said Netanyahu, who later hosted members of the official White House delegation at a celebratory dinner.

Palestinians view it as a major betrayal of Washington’s decades-old role as a potential broker for a peace deal with Israel.

“Outside of the U.S. and a few other countries, most of the world is against this move,” said Ayman Odeh, leader of the Arab faction in Israel’s parliament, who despite being invited to the opening ceremony is consciously objecting by boycotting the event.

“Most want to see peace created along the lines that existed in 1967,” he said. “This is a one-sided move that strengthens occupation and moves us further from peace.”

Palestinians are planning to protest the move at events planned throughout Jerusalem and the West Bank. Israeli police spokesman, Micky Rosenfeld, said that security forces were on high alert for what is expected to be a tense few days.

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