Trump says he is committed to Middle East peace deal as deadly Gaza protests break out over US embassy in Jerusalem

'The United States remains fully committed to facilitating a lasting peace agreement'

Emily Shugerman
New York
Monday 14 May 2018 16:44 BST
Donald Trump announces opening of US embassy in Jerusalem

President Donald Trump has said he remains committed to securing a peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians, even as deadly protests broke out amid the dedication of a new US embassy in Jerusalem.

Mr Trump released a video message on the day of the dedication, which he spurred when he decided to officially recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel last year.

In the video message, Mr Trump said the relocation of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem – one of his key campaign promises, and a break from decades of US policy – was “a long time coming”.

“Israel is a sovereign nation with the right, like every other sovereign nation, to determine its own capital,” he said in the pre-recorded address. “Yet for many years we failed to acknowledge the obvious: the plain reality that Israel’s capital is Jerusalem.”

The embassy dedication – attended by Mr Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner – was celebrated by Jewish Israelis but heavily protested by Palestinians, who also claim Jerusalem as their capital.

Jared Kushner: The United States stands with Israel

At least 41 Palestinians were killed and 1,700 were wounded by Israeli forces during protests at the Israeli border in Gaza on Monday, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health. It was the deadliest single day since Palestinians began protesting at the border fence more than six weeks ago.

The Israel Defense Forces claimed the Palestinian militant group Hamas was leading a “terrorist operation" at the border, and estimated that about 35,000 "violent rioters" were assembled near the fence. Some were planting or throwing explosives, the military said.

Hundreds of Arab Israelis, including five members of parliament, also staged a protest near the site of the new embassy on Monday, according to the Associated Press.

Still, Mr Trump maintained that the US’s “greatest hope” in the region was for lasting peace.

“The United States remains fully committed to facilitating a lasting peace agreement, and we continue to support the status quo at Jerusalem's holy sites,” he said.

Mr Kushner echoed this sentiment in his address at the dedication, saying it was possible for both sides to “live in peace, safe from danger, free from fear, and able to pursue their dreams”.

"Jerusalem must remain a city that brings people of all faiths together," added Mr Kushner, who the president has charged with spearheading peace negotiations.

Trump: 'Jerusalem was the right thing to do, we took that off the table'

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said in December that the US was no longer qualified to broker peace talks in the region after Mr Trump’s decision on Jerusalem. Nearly 60 Muslim countries signed a joint declaration affirming this.

Leaders from Lebanon, Turkey, Egypt, Ireland, the Netherlands, and numerous other countries reiterated their opposition to the embassy’s relocation on Monday. The leader of the UN, Antonio Guterres, also expressed his concern at the number of people killed at the Israeli border.

Ismail Radwan, a representative of Hamas, said protests would continue until Palestinians were allowed the “right of return” to the land from which they were displaced during the 1948 formation of Israel.

“We will continue on this path until the rights of the Palestinian people are achieved,” he said, according to the Associated Press.

“Big day for Israel,” Mr Trump tweeted. “Congratulations!”

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