The United States of America on May 14, 2018 officially relocated its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, upholding the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995.
US President Donald Trump did not attend the ceremony in Jerusalem however, he congratulated Israel through a video message broadcast saying that the opening had been "a long time coming."
"Today, Jerusalem is the seat of Israel's government. It is the home of the Israeli legislature and the Israeli Supreme Court and Israel's Prime Minister and President. Israel is a sovereign nation with the right, like every other sovereign nation, to determine its own capital, yet for many years we failed to acknowledge the obvious, the plain reality that Israel's capital is Jerusalem,” Trump said.
The Jerusalem Embassy Act, which was passed by the US Congress in 1995, calls on the US to move its embassy to Jerusalem, officially recognising it is as the capital of Israel.
However, the law was held off by former US Presidents for over 20 years. The law has a clause that allows the Presidents to postpone its application for six months.
All the three predecessors of Trump including Bill Clinton, George W Bush and Barack Obama exercised the law's waiver and kept re-ratifying the clause every six months, refusing to move the US embassy to Jerusalem.
The Key Highlights
• The US embassy was opened in Jerusalem on May 14, on the day that marked the 70th anniversary of the founding of the state of Israel, in the presence of several politicians and dignitaries including Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner.
• The US and Israeli leaders hailed the embassy move as a sign of the enduring relationship between the two countries and of US trustworthiness.
• The ceremony was attended by several nations including Albania, Austria, Cameroon, Czech Republic, Ethiopia, Georgia, Hungary, Kenya, Myanmar, Macedonia, Nigeria, Peru, Philippines, Romania, Rwanda, Serbia, Tanzania, Thailand, Ukraine, Vietnam and Zambia.
• The celebratory air in Jerusalem contrasted with the spike in violence merely 80 kms away, in Gaza.
• Some of US’s closest allies denounced the US decision to break with international norms by moving its embassy.
• While France expressed its official disapproval, South Africa pulled its envoy from Tel Aviv and Turkey pulled its ambassadors from both Washington and Tel Aviv.
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• Donald Trump’s decision to move US embassy to Jerusalem, declaring the city as the capital of Israel is contentious for Palestinians, who hope to claim part of the city as their future capital.
• The city is home to sites that are holy to Jews, Muslims and Christians, which is one of the core issues in the conflict-
• While Israel wants to be recognised as the full sovereign of Jerusalem, Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as the capital of the Palestinian state.
• Though Israel declared Jerusalem as its capital in 1980, it is not recognised internationally.
• Hence, the embassies of all the nations in Israel are based either in or close to Tel Aviv.
• Trump however, had promised to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem during his presidential election campaign.
Following US action, Guatemala would be moving its embassy to Jerusalem within a week and Paraguay will follow suit later this month.