Trump has empowered what’s worst in Israel, and as long as he is president, it may be that Israel can kill Palestinians, demolish their homes and appropriate their land with impunity. But some day, Trump will be gone.
The juxtaposition of images of dead and wounded Palestinians and Ivanka Trump smiling in Jerusalem like a Zionist Marie Antoinette tell us a lot about America’s relationship to Israel right now. It has never been closer, but within that closeness there are seeds of potential estrangement.
On Monday, Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner and other leading lights of the Trumpist right gathered in Israel to celebrate the relocation of the American Embassy to Jerusalem, a gesture widely seen as a slap in the face to Palestinians who envision East Jerusalem as their future capital.
The event was grotesque. It was a consummation of the cynical alliance between hawkish Jews and Zionist evangelicals who believe that the return of Jews to Israel will usher in the apocalypse and the return of Christ, after which Jews who don’t convert will burn forever.
Religions like “Mormonism, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism” lead people “to an eternity of separation from God in Hell,” Robert Jeffress, a Dallas megachurch pastor, once said. He was chosen to give the opening prayer at the embassy ceremony. John Hagee, one of America’s most prominent end-times preachers, once said that Hitler was sent by God to drive the Jews to their ancestral homeland. He gave the closing benediction.
“[We are] alarmed, concerned, and profoundly saddened by the growing number of Gazan dead and wounded. It does not have to be this way.”
— Rabbi Rick Jacobs, Union for Reform Judaism president
The opening ceremony for the new US Embassy in Jerusalem was, essentially, an invitation-only Trump campaign rally.
Those in attendance had all sworn loyalty to the president and belonged to one of the groups that has hailed him as a modern-day Cyrus the Great: Orthodox Jews, right-wing Israelis (including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu) and the pro-Trump Republican base — particularly those in the evangelical community.
This was all on display from the ceremony’s opening blessing, by Texan Baptist megachurch pastor Dr. Robert Jeffress. His eyes squeezed closed in prayer, he thanked God for “our great president, Donald Trump,” lauded how Israel “has blessed this world by pointing us to you, the one true God, through the message of her prophets, her scriptures, and the Messiah,” and praying for Jerusalem “in the name of the spirit of the Prince of Peace, Jesus our lord.”
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”
1. A predictable disaster in Gaza: Israel did not lift a finger to prevent lethal clashes
The plumes of smoke rising in the distance from Gaza were already visible on the drive from the Negev town of Netivot Monday morning. Over the next several hours, the smoke from burning tires grew thicker at dozens of protest sites along the entire Strip, from the area across from Moshav Netiv Ha’asara in the north to the Rafah and Kerem Shalom crossings in the south. Read Amos Harel’s full analysis here →
2. Messianic US–Israel axis showcased at Jerusalem embassy ceremony is gut-punch for most American Jews
The stark contrast that played out on split screens throughout the world Monday, between the Israeli celebration in Jerusalem and the Palestinian casualties in Gaza, was worthy of Charles Dickens’ immortal opening to A Tale of Two Cities: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.” Read Chemi Shalev’s full analysis here →
Whether you agree or not, under President Trump, the United States is not pretending anything. We have declared unambiguously that we care only about Israel’s interests — or, to be more accurate, Israel’s interests as understood by the conservative Likud party — and that we no longer have any concern for Palestinian rights, Palestinian lives or the eventual creation of a Palestinian state.
Monday marked the moment when the policy of the United States government toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict lost all complexity, all ambiguity and all nuance.
On Monday, we were confronted with two sets of pictures. On one side, thousands of Palestinians gathering at the Gaza border to protest are being shot down by Israeli snipers. As I write, at least 43 people have been killed and more than 2,000 wounded, according to the Gaza Health Ministry; those numbers will undoubtedly rise.
On the other side, representatives of the Trump administration, including Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner, some Republican donors and a couple of evangelical megachurch pastors who have said vile, bigoted things about Islam and Muslims, are celebrating the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem.
Settlers’ rapidly growing presence in East Jerusalem, along with Monday’s embassy move, indicate that while Trump may still float the possibility of a “two-state solution,” his actions are pointing into the opposite direction.
Why do so many countries refuse to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital?
So, is it only about Jerusalem?
Why is a “two-state solution” so difficult to facilitate?
Israel is bracing for a tense week as the U.S. Embassy officially opens in Jerusalem on Monday — a move that has triggered fierce protests by Palestinians. Protests turned violent in Gaza, where dozens of Palestinians were killed by Israeli soldiers in clashes along the border fence Monday, according to the Health Ministry in Gaza, making it the bloodiest day of demonstrations in the past six weeks of protests.
Overall, more than 80 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli soldiers and almost 4,000 have been injured since President Trump announced the embassy move early in December.
Observers of the conflict had already predicted the tensions when Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and announced the move. At the time, the decision was branded “dangerous,” “catastrophic,” “irresponsible” and being “against international law” by countries usually considered U.S. allies, including France, Germany and Saudi Arabia.
Israeli forces opened fire on demonstrators in Gaza on Monday, killing dozens and injuring more than 2,400 people protesting the Monday opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem.
As bodies fell on the border on what became the bloodiest day in Gaza since the 2014 war, US and Israeli officials celebrated the opening of the embassy.
Demonstrations have quieted so we’re closing down the live blog for now. Here is a summary of today’s events:
Gaza’s ministry of health reported 52 people were killed and more than 2,400 were injured during protests at the border between Gaza and Israel. There are six children and one paramedic among the dead, the ministry said.
United Nations human rights experts urged Israel to halt excessive force against Palestinian protesters and Amnesty International accused Israel of violating international law.
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) insisted, however, that is was following protocol. The IDF said it killed three “terrorists” and struck five “terrorist targets.”
Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the military was acting in self-defense. “Every country has an obligation to defend its borders,” he wrote on Twitter.
Senior US officials, including president Donald Trump, have not mentioned the protests in communications celebrating the embassy opening. “Big day for Israel. Congratulations!” the president said on Twitter.
US secretary of state Mike Pompeo also ignored the deadly protests, while declaring the US was committed to advancing peace between Israel and Palestine.
Foreign ministries in the UK, France and Egypt expressed concern about the the violence. UK prime minister Theresa May’s spokesperson said: “We urge calm and restraint to avoid actions destructive to peace efforts.”
Trump did not attend the embassy dedication ceremony, but his daughter Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner, a senior advisor to the president, went in his place. Kushner made a rare public address and said the opening of the embassy was an acknowledgement of the truth that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel.
“I’m here because of our land that we want back. We have nothing to lose. Nobody cares about us. Why should we wait to die slowly?”
— 25-year-old Mohammed Nabieh, a descendant of refugees from a village near the Israeli city of Ashdod
Israeli forces have killed 41 Palestinians and wounded at least 900 in Gaza, health officials said, as troops fired bullets at residents protesting against the Monday opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem.
Tens of thousands turned out across the coastal enclave in what soon became the bloodiest day in Gaza since the 2014 war. Close to 40 of the casualties were critically injured and the dead included a 14-year-old boy, medics said.
The sky along the frontier was blackened with thick smoke as protesters lit tyres. Intermittent sniper fire was heard and crowds of protesters were seen rushing towards the fence.
Around 60 miles away in an affluent neighborhood of Jerusalem, Washington’s ambassador, David Friedman, stood on a stage painted with the US flag and welcomed a delegation of US and Israeli VIPs, including the president’s daughter, Ivanka.
Prior to Monday, Israeli snipers had killed 49 Palestinians and wounded nearly 10,000 Palestinian protesters since the protests began. Among the wounded and killed were at least half a dozen journalists, including Yaser Murtaja and Ahmed Abu Hussein — both of whom were wearing jackets clearly marked “PRESS” when they were shot. There have been zero Israeli casualties.
The Ministry of Health in Gaza says that that the number of Palestinians killed by Israel on the Gaza border has risen to 52.
Gaza’s Ministry of Health is reporting that the number of Palestinians killed today by Israeli forces in Gaza has risen to 43.
Israeli soldiers have killed 41 Palestinians and wounded 1,960, according to the Ministry of Health in Gaza.
“We condemn unreservedly the Israeli government for their brutal, lethal and utterly unjustified actions on the Gaza border, and our thoughts are with all those Palestinians in Gaza whose loved ones have been killed or injured as a result.
“These actions are made all the worse because they come not as the result of a disproportionate over-reaction to one day’s protests, but as the culmination of six weeks of an apparently systemic and deliberate policy of killing and maiming unarmed protestors and bystanders who pose no threat to the forces at the Gaza border, many of them shot in the back, many of them shot hundreds of meters from the border, and many of them children.”
— Emily Thornberry MP, Britain’s Labour Shadow Foreign Secretary
Follow latest developments from The Guardian in this continuously updated page.