Amid deadly clashes along the Israeli border which left at least 37 Palestinians dead and hundreds more wounded, US president Donald Trump’s top advisers and supporters have celebrated the opening of the new US embassy in Jerusalem as a campaign promised fulfilled.
In a video address aired at the opening, Mr Trump said the new embassy had been “a long time coming”.
Mr Trump said that the US had “failed to acknowledge the obvious” for many years, adding: “Today, we follow through on this recognition.”
The president’s daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner, along with US treasury secretary Steve Mnuchin, led the US delegation with a single message: Only Donald Trump had the courage to act on what America has wanted for a long time.
In a speech, Mr Kushner is expected to say: “While presidents before him have backed down from their pledge to move the American embassy once they were in office, this president delivered. Because when President Trump makes a promise, he keeps it.”
The relocation of the embassy from Tel Aviv has infuriated the Palestinians, who seek east Jerusalem as a future capital. Protests roiled along the Gaza border, resulting in at least 37 Palestinians being killed and an estimated 500 more injured after Israeli forces opened fire.
Mr Trump added in his video address that the new embassy was opening “many, many years ahead of schedule”.
He added that he remains committed to “facilitating a lasting peace agreement”, and said he was “extending a hand of friendship to Israel, the Palestinians and to all of their neighbours”.
In a Fox News interview that made no reference to the climbing death toll, Mr Mnuchin repeatedly referenced Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and said Mr Trump should be praised for “taking action” to keep Americans and people in the Middle East safe.
Big day for Israel. Congratulations!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 14, 2018
“The president is making difficult decisions because they are what he believes are the right long term decisions and not just kicking the can down the road,” Mr Mnuchin said.
The US treasury secretary also said “it’s not coincidental” that the embassy move coincided with Mr Trump’s announcement that he planned to abandon the Iran nuclear deal.
Also on hand were Republican senators Ted Cruz of Texas and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.
The embassy celebration was widely considered a snub by the Palestinians. Roughly 800 guests were expected to attend.
US officials said last week that Mr Trump’s delegation was not planning on meeting Palestinian officials during their visit. The Trump administration in recent months has also slashed US aid to the Palestinians and programmes that support them.
Mr Trump’s policy is a sharp departure from past US administrations, which have tried to position America as a neutral party ready to broker a peace deal.
“Of all the things President Trump could have done, doing this (embassy move) is the strongest signal he could send to the Israeli people,” Mr Graham said.