Washington (AFP) – Despite Palestinian outrage over Monday’s opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem, Washington’s ambassador to Israel said that there is still hope for peace in the region.
“They are not reacting well,” Ambassador David Friedman said saturday of the Palestinians, who view the eastern part of Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.
Israel claims all of Jerusalem as its capital.
President Donald Trump’s decision to move the embassy from Tel Aviv broke with generations of international consensus that Jerusalem’s status should be settled as part of a two-state peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians.
Tens of thousands of Palestinians are expected to gather along the border between Gaza and Israel on Monday to protest the embassy opening.
But Friedman told Fox News host Jeanine Pirro that the Palestinian mood “will change over time because they will understand that the United States continues to extend its hand in peace and people need to focus on what’s important, the quality of life, more infrastructure, more security, better hospitals.”
He said the US “is there to help the Palestinians” and “there is no basis” to think the embassy move will work against peace.
“I think we’re gonna make progress,” he told Pirro who is in Jerusalem for the embassy opening.
Friedman in the past has been a supporter of Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.
The Palestine Liberation Organization has decried Washington’s embassy move as a “provocation to all Arabs,” and the opening falls on May 14 which this year marks 70 years since Israel’s declaration of independence — which Palestinians call Naqba, their “day of catastrophe.”
Fifty-four Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire since mass protests broke out along the border on March 30. No Israelis have been injured.
Friedman confirmed that Trump will “be there on video” at the embassy ceremony and that Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, a senior White House aide, will speak in person.