Dozens die as US opens new embassy in Israel

Uprising: Medics say a 14-year-old boy was among the dead in Gaza. © Getty

Should the US Embassy in Israel be moved to Jerusalem? Yesterday, the Trump administration broke with decades of established policy to move the embassy to the holy city amid deadly clashes.

The Holy Land is just one-sixteenth the size of California. At its heart lies a city roughly the size of Manchester. And yet yesterday, as throughout history, the names of Israel, Palestine and Jerusalem were at the heart of fierce global debate.

The US has opened a new embassy in Jerusalem. President Donald Trump’s decision to move it from the coastal city of Tel Aviv has caused huge controversy.

In the Palestinian exclave of Gaza yesterday, at least 52 people were killed and 2,200 wounded. When a mass of Palestinians attempted to cross the border fence that separates Israel from Gaza, things quickly turned violent, with Israeli soldiers responding with rifle fire.

Tens of thousands of Palestinians took part in the protests, which spread to the West Bank.

In Jerusalem, Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, and her Jewish husband, Jared Kushner, attended a ceremony to mark the new embassy’s opening.

Jerusalem lies on the heavily disputed border between the current versions of Israel and Palestine. Israel regards Jerusalem as its “eternal and undivided” capital, while the Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.

The move was brought forward to coincide with the 70th anniversary of the founding of the State of Israel, further angering Palestinians. Today, Palestinians mark Nakba Day, commemorating the displacement that followed the declaration of Israeli independence.

Trump has officially recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, breaking with decades of US neutrality on the issue and putting the US out of step with many of its allies. Condemnation was swift and wide-ranging, with both the king of Saudi Arabia and the Reform Judaism movement criticising the move.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has stated that the embassy move would be “good for peace”. Yesterday’s events seem to contradict that.

But he and Trump remain sure of their decision. Are they right?

Holy war

This is “reckless and provocative”, says The Guardian. It has caused the deadliest day in the region since the 2014 conflict in Gaza. For Palestinians, the move erodes any sense that a compromise might be close. The US can no longer be seen as an honest broker in the conflict. Netanyahu and Trump are playing to their base — and the result will be plenty of suffering.

But as Israeli minister Naftali Bennett points out in The Washington Post: “Capital cities are determined by the governments of the states, not by outsiders.” Do not be too starry-eyed about these protesters. They could be being led by Hamas, a terrorist organisation. These people are not looking for compromise; polls show that most Palestinians do not believe Israel has any right to exist.

You Decide

  1. Should the US have moved its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem?
  2. Will Israelis and Palestinians ever make peace?

Activities

  1. On a blank map of Israel and Palestine, illustrate the history of the two states since Israel declared independence.
  2. “Which plays a greater role in preventing an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: territory or religion?” Write 500 words answering this question.

Some People Say...

“You can’t have occupation and human rights.”

Christopher Hitchens

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
Yesterday, the US officially opened its new embassy in Israel. Controversially, it is now in Jerusalem, having previously been in Tel Aviv. Israel claims Jerusalem as its one and only capital, but Palestine lays claim to the eastern part of the city. Dozens of Palestinians died yesterday after hundreds stormed the border wall.
What do we not know?
Whether the conflict is ever going to end. It could be that Trump’s decision is the bold move required to start a new round of peace talks, but most of the international community regards the move as unwise and likely to inflame tensions further. We also do not know whether the numbers on both sides that are willing to accept a compromise will grow or decline.

Word Watch

Tel Aviv
The largest city in Israel, Tel Aviv is the country’s main port.
Killed
Palestinian media are reporting that the son of Abdel Aziz al-Rantisi is among the dead in Gaza. Abdel Aziz al-Rantisi was the co-founder of Hamas and was killed in an Israeli missile strike in Gaza in 2004.
Border fence
Gaza is surrounded by a wall on three sides and by the sea on the fourth. Its citizens are prevented from leaving the city. A huge fence also runs for 440 miles along the border between Israel and the West Bank.
West Bank
This refers to the west bank of the River Jordan.
East Jerusalem
The city’s east has been occupied by Israel since the 1967 Six-Day War.
Displacement
Before, during and after the 1948 war, Palestinians were forced to leave land that was claimed by Jewish settlers. According to estimates from a Palestinian NGO, there are 384,200 internally displaced Palestinians in Israel and 334,600 in the Palestinian territories.
Reform Judaism movement
A moderate form of Judaism that emphasises the evolving nature of the faith.