By Diane Cooke
President Donald Trump reckons he will save nearly $999,800,000 on controversial plans to move the US Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem today.
The administration announced plans in February to designate a US consular facility in Jerusalem as the US Embassy but the process of building a new permanent embassy in the city will take years.
The ceremony will take place in the midst of increasingly violent protests in Gaza, the Palestinians' marking of the "Nakba" - their national tragedy of dispossession of their land when Israel was established - and the beginning of Ramadan.
When he announced the move in December, Trump described the decision as a “long overdue step to advance the peace process”.
It was both a political move, fulfilling one of the president’s campaign promises, and a symbolic one marking the United States’ official recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
It also was controversial; while Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed it as a “great day for the people of Israel,” Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said it proved the U.S. could no longer be a neutral broker in any peace negotiation.
Palestinians assert that the eastern portion of Jerusalem will be the capital of their future state. Israel captured and annexed East Jerusalem from Jordan after the 1967 Middle East war.
If thousands more Palestinians join existing demonstrations, including the one at the Gaza border where at least 40 Palestinians have been killed and 5,000 wounded, there could be more casualties, said Shibley Telhami, a professor of government and politics at the University of Maryland. The ribbon cutting is occurring on the 70th anniversary of Israel’s declaration of independence.
About 800 guests are likely to attend today’s ceremony, including members of Congress. Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan will lead the U.S. delegation, along with Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law and adviser; Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin; and U.S. Middle East peace envoy Jason Greenblatt, the White House said this week.
Last month, a group of 20 Arnona residents petitioned the Israeli Supreme Court to block the move. They oppose the added security and planned construction of a wall 10-15 feet high that would block the residents’ view of West Bank hillsides and, on clear days, Jordan. The court rejected the petition on May 1.