President Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner have arrived in Israel for the opening of the new US embassy in Jerusalem as thousands of Palestinian’s prepare to protest.
Ms Trump and Kushner, who both serve as senior White House advisers, will represent the US President at the opening ceremony later Monday.
Mr Trump announced plans to move the US Embassy from Te Aviv to Jerusalem last year, causing fury throughout the Muslim world.
The embassy’s opening was brought forward to coincide with the state of Israel’s 70th anniversary.
The ancient city of Jerusalem is one of the holiest sites for the Jewish, Christian and Muslim faiths, and the Palestinians want their own future state with its capital in the city.
I am honored to join the delegation representing @POTUS, his Admin & the American people at this momentous ceremony commemorating the opening of our new US Embassy in Jerusalem, Israel. We will pray for the boundless potential of the US-Israel alliance & we will pray for peace. pic.twitter.com/ulYbJAfTcL
— Ivanka Trump (@IvankaTrump) May 12, 2018
Addressing dignitaries at a function Monday morning (AEST) — including US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, MsTrump and Mr Kushner — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged other nations to follow Washington’s lead relocate their diplomatic missions to Jerusalem.
“Move your embassies to Jerusalem because it’s the right thing to do,” Mr Netanyahu said.
“Move your embassies to Jerusalem because it advances peace, and that’s because you can’t base peace on a foundation of lies.”
Mr Netanyahu said that “under any peace agreement you could possibly imagine, Jerusalem will remain Israel’s capital”.
Israel said all 86 countries with diplomatic missions in Israel were invited to the event, and 33 confirmed attendance. Among those present were delegates from Guatemala and Paraguay, which will open their own Jerusalem embassies later this month.
Representatives from Hungary, Romania and the Czech Republic attended but none from western European Union states, suggesting a rift within the bloc over Trump’s Jerusalem move.
Jerusalem was decorated with roadside flowerbeds in the design of the US flag and posters reading “Trump make Israel great again” ahead of the opening.
“Tragically, the US administration has chosen to side with Israel’s exclusivist claims over a city that has for centuries been sacred to all faiths,” the general delegation of the Palestine Liberation Organisation to the United States said.
The US embassy move “gives life to a religious conflict instead of a dignified peace”, it said in a statement.
The Israeli military, meanwhile says it has beefed up forces along the Gaza border and dropped leaflets into the Gaza Strip urging residents to keep their distance from the border fence during large-scale protests expected later Monday.
Gaza’s ruling Hamas movement is urging tens of thousands of people to join the protest against the US embassy.
The protest is to culminate weeks of border marches aimed at breaking a crippling Israeli-Egyptian blockade.
Hamas has indicated that large numbers of protesters could break through the border on Monday — a scenario that could prompt Israel to respond with deadly force.
Forty-two protesters have been killed during the past month of weekly protests.
The army says it is defending its border and uses live ammunition only as a last resort.
The Israel army says it has deployed additional combat battalions, special units, intelligence forces and snipers to the border. It also has deployed extra forces to the West Bank in case the protests spread.