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Triumphant mood in Jerusalem ahead of U.S. embassy opening

The U.S. embassy will open in Jerusalem on Monday, a move that has pleased the Israeli government but been condemned by some allies and Palestinians. Tensions have been on the rise as the six-week-long “Right of Return” march is expected to culminate in a protest by Gazans next week. NewsHour Weekend Special Correspondent Jane Ferguson joins Hari Sreenivasan for more.

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  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    The United States will officially move its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem tomorrow. President Trump made the controversial decision to relocate the embassy last December, pleasing Israel's government but causing ongoing violent protests by Palestinians. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed the official U.S. delegation today, led by the president's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, his daughter Ivanka and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin. Israel captured East Jerusalem in the 1967 Six Day War and claims the city is unified. Palestinians want East Jerusalem to be the capital of their future state. Protests are planned throughout the region tomorrow including what may be the largest demonstration yet at Israel's border with Gaza. Joining us now via Skype from Gaza is NewsHour Weekend Special Correspondent, Jane Ferguson. Let's put this embassy move in a little bit of context here. Gaza has been in the news week after week because of protests there.

  • JANE FERGUSON:

    It has. These protests have been going on for six weeks now with Gazans basically marching on the fence or the border around Gaza, saying that they're marching in a march for the right of return to their ancestral homes that they fled whenever Israel was formed in 1948. That's been going on for six weeks and we've seen a lot of bloodshed. Dozens killed by live fire by Israeli Defense Forces soldiers stationed on the that border fence itself. Now, of course, these marches are going to culminate on Tuesday. They'll also be marching tomorrow and it's expected to be more of the same. But even bigger at this stage and it could be bloody and violent. But in the meantime in Jerusalem, the atmosphere is tense but it's also triumphant for the Israelis to get the U.S. president to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel publicly and so, officially is a big coup for them and you'll see across Jerusalem's city there are many posters and banners saying Trump is a friend of Zion and Trump is a great friend of Israel. And so, there is certainly a celebrator feel up there. But it's a very complicated time and a very tense time in other areas.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Is there a peace process that this move disrupts?

  • JANE FERGUSON:

    There really isn't any functioning peace process or even hopeful peace process at the moment. We saw John Kerry, then secretary of state try to revive that in 2013 that was not successful. And since we've seen the interim administration come in, relationships with the Palestinians have gone much much further south. We've seen, of course, this move, the embassy, has been responded to by the Palestinians with complete condemnation. The Palestinians have said that they now view the U.S. as no longer an honest broker on any peace talks in the future. So it's not clear if there would ever really be any possibility of a peace plan despite what the Trump administration says they are trying to come up with some deal in the Middle East. So there's certainly been a huge amount of polarization.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Let's talk about some of the events in the region that have ratcheted up tensions. Recently Israel has been making airstrikes into Syria into what it says are Iranian positions in the country. And then you've got the U.S. withdrawal from the Iran deal.

  • JANE FERGUSON:

    That's right. For the Israelis, a much bigger security threat to them as far as they are concerned right now, is Iran. Just five days ago, we saw that President Trump pulling out of the Iran deal, only a day later the Israelis said the Iranians fired 20 rockets into Israeli occupied Golan Heights. They then responded with widespread airstrikes, the kind of aerial campaign that hasn't been seen here many years in Syria on Iranian targets. And that was really only the latest event in what has been an ongoing tit for tat between Iran and the Israelis for the Israelis that Iranian presence on their border is a growing concern.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    All right. NewsHour Weekend Special Correspondent Jane Ferguson joining us via Skype. Thanks so much.

  • JANE FERGUSON:

    Thank you.

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