Israelis basked in national pride and prepared for a Jerusalem march expected to draw tens of thousands Sunday, a day ahead of the controversial US embassy move to the disputed city.
Palestinians meanwhile readied for their own protests on Monday over the embassy’s inauguration, including another mass demonstration in the Gaza Strip near the border with Israel.
Sunday’s Jerusalem march begins a week of high tension between Israelis and Palestinians, highlighted by the embassy inauguration to be attended by a Washington delegation including US President Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka and her husband, senior White House adviser Jared Kushner.
Both arrived in Israel on Sunday.
The embassy move will take place on the 70th anniversary of Israel’s founding, while the following day Palestinians will mark the Nakba, or “catastrophe,” commemorating the more than 700,000 Palestinians who fled or were expelled in the 1948 war surrounding Israel’s creation.
Palestinian protests are also planned for Tuesday.
For Israelis, Sunday is Jerusalem Day, an annual celebration of the “reunification” of the city following the 1967 Six-Day War.
Israel occupied the West Bank and east Jerusalem in 1967. It later annexed east Jerusalem in a move never recognised by the international community.
This year’s celebration takes on added significance due to the embassy move the following day.
The annual march to the Western Wall includes many hardline religious nationalists who oppose a Palestinian state, often resulting in clashes as they pass through mainly Palestinian east Jerusalem.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — bolstered in recent days by Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal — opened a special cabinet meeting at Jerusalem’s Bible Lands Museum by again lauding the embassy move.
“Jerusalem is mentioned in the Bible approximately 650 times,” Netanyahu said.
“The reason is simple: For over 3,000 years it has been the capital of our people, and only of our people.”
Police and the Israeli military planned major security deployments.
Around 1,000 police officers will be positioned around the US embassy and surrounding neighbourhoods for Monday’s inauguration, said spokesman Micky Rosenfeld.
Israel’s army said it would almost double the number of troops surrounding the Gaza Strip and in the occupied West Bank.
On Sunday, scuffles broke out between Israelis visiting the Haram al-Sharif holy compound in east Jerusalem’s Old City, known to Jews as the Temple Mount, and Muslim security officers.
Jews are allowed to visit the site but not pray there to avoid provoking tensions and police said a number of visitors were removed for not following the rules.
“It is not a provocation. It’s our property,” said Nili Naoun, 42, an Israeli who arrived at the holy site with her family at 7:00 am.
A number of Palestinian shop owners in the Old City said they planned to close when the march passed through in case anyone tried to vandalise their shops, as has occurred in the past.
There were already tensions in the weeks before the embassy move.
Fifty-four Palestinians have been killed in protests and clashes since March 30 along the Gaza Strip’s border with Israel.
No Israelis have been wounded and the military has faced criticism over the use of live fire.
Israel says it only opens fire when necessary to stop infiltrations, attacks and damage to the border fence, while accusing Hamas, the Islamist movement that runs the blockaded Gaza Strip, of seeking to use the protests as cover to carry out violence.
On Sunday, Hamas leader Ismail Haniya headed to Cairo for talks amid speculation over whether Egypt is attempting to calm the situation.
The embassy move has provoked Palestinian anger and led them to freeze ties with the White House.
But US ambassador to Israel David Friedman, who has been a supporter of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, said he believed the Palestinians’ position “will change over time.”
He told Fox News the United States “is there to help the Palestinians” and “there is no basis” to think the embassy move will work against peace.
Jerusalem’s status is perhaps the thorniest issue in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Israel considers the entire city its capital, while the Palestinians see east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.
In the decades since 1967, international consensus has been that the city’s status must be negotiated between the two sides, but Trump broke with that to global outrage.
Like Friedman, he has argued that it helps make peace possible by taking Jerusalem “off the table”, but many have pointed out that he has not announced any concessions in return from Israel.
‘They weren’t man enough to stay’: Ex-GOP chairman rips Republicans who bailed after attacking Fiona Hill
The former leader of the Republican Party questioned the manhood of GOP members of Congress who left the impeachment hearing after attacking Dr. Fiona Hill.
Former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele was interviewed by Chris Matthews on MSNBC's "Hardball" on Thursday.
"We watched a pathetic performance," Steele said.
"So pathetic, at the end they couldn't ask questions, because they knew the moment they did she would shred them alive on live television," he explained.
"To the point that after they would trash her, they'd get up and leave the room -- they weren't man enough to stay," Steele concluded.
Trump officials could not have been ‘completely clueless’ about what he was doing: CNN correspondent
On Thursday's edition of CNN's "The Situation Room," White House correspondent Abby Phillip highlighted how Fiona Hill's testimony made the claim by other officials that they weren't aware of the scheme to extort dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden from Ukraine much less plausible.
"The idea Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election is completely unfounded," said Phillip. "This is important because it puts in context some of the other testimony we heard ... from Ambassador [Kurt] Volker and another top NSC official, Tim Morrison, who replaced Fiona Hill, that the conspiracy theory was a legitimate function of the government, it was okay for President Trump to seek that kind of investigation, was perfectly normal to them. And it wasn't until they learned 'Burisma' equaled 'Biden' they learned there was something weird or nefarious going on."
Pro-Trump reporter John Solomon attacks Fiona Hill for debunking his Ukraine conspiracy theories
On Tuesday, National Security Council official Fiona Hill testified that the right-wing narrative Ukraine colluded with Democrats to interfere in the 2016 election — rather than Russia working to help Donald Trump — is a "fictional narrative" and a piece of propaganda promoted by Russia.
One person was enraged at this testimony — John Solomon, the notorious right-wing reporter who covered Ukraine's supposed interference in the 2016 election extensively. He fired off multiple angry tweets attacking Fiona Hill:
How dare Fiona Hill question my patriotism or suggest I was part of a Russian disinformation campaign without a single fact. My sources were all US officials or Ukrainian officials aligned against Russia. Her accusations must have made Joe McCarthy smile up from hell.