Trump to address Jerusalem embassy opening by video

Passers-by near the new United States embassy in Jerusalem, as banners praising President Donald Trump hang from lamp posts along the streets.
Passers-by near the new United States embassy in Jerusalem, as banners praising President Donald Trump hang from lamp posts along the streets.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

WASHINGTON • United States President Donald Trump will address around 800 American and Israeli dignitaries at the ceremonial opening of the American embassy in Jerusalem by video tomorrow, the US ambassador said.

It was not immediately clear from Ambassador David Friedman's remarks, on a call with reporters, whether Mr Trump will speak via a live videolink or a pre-recorded address.

"Big week next week when the American Embassy in Israel will be moved to Jerusalem. Congratulations to all!" Mr Trump tweeted last Friday.

The ambassador said staff at the Tel Aviv mission had just marked its last day as an embassy and some of them will turn up for work tomorrow at the Jerusalem embassy, which will host an opening ceremony later that day.

"I think we're all very happy and excited to be participating in such a historic event," Mr Friedman said.

"People have been working literally around the clock in getting ready for our opening dedication ceremony on Monday.

"We'll be ready," he added.

Mr Friedman said around 800 people are expected for the ceremony, explaining that in addition to the previously announced US presidential delegation, a "healthy number" of American lawmakers are also set to attend.

"The President, from my side of things, will be addressing the audience by video," he said.

Republican Lindsey Graham's office said he will be among a delegation of senators, including Senator Ted Cruz, who will attend the opening ceremony and meet Israeli officials about "counter-terrorism and national security issues".

But he stressed the event will be a bilateral US-Israeli celebration, downplaying reports that very few, if any, diplomats from other countries that have not recognised Jerusalem as Israel's capital will attend.

US Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan will lead the delegation that will include Mr Trump's daughter Ivanka, her husband and senior White House aide Jared Kushner, and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

The US decision to move the embassy and to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital raised concern in many capitals, and outrage in some, that Washington is pre-judging the result of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Mr Trump has been criticised for handing his ally, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a political victory without insisting on any Israeli concessions that might mollify Palestinians and help revive the moribund peace process.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 13, 2018, with the headline 'Trump to address Jerusalem embassy opening by video'. Print Edition | Subscribe