On May 14, 2018 United States moved its Israel embassy to Jerusalem, recognizing the disputed city as the Jewish state’s capital, since then relations between Washington and the Palestinians have plummeted.
Here are the key developments that ensued.
Bloodshed on Gaza Border
The US embassy in Jerusalem is inaugurated on May 14, 2018 in a high-profile ceremony attended by President Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner. It is held on the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the state of Israel in part of former Palestine.
The embassy’s move from Tel Aviv — an international first – confirms Trump’s announcement in December that Washington would recognize the holy city as Israel’s capital, infuriating Palestinians who see east Jerusalem as the capital of their own future state.
On May 2, Kushner says his plan will pull back from longstanding mentions of a two-state solution to the conflict.
Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas says the new embassy is tantamount to “a new American settler outpost” and rejects the US role as mediator in the Middle East, a position it has long assumed. As the opening gets underway, violence flares during mass protests along the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip.
Over the day, 62 Palestinians are killed and more than 2,400 are wounded by Israeli fire, according to Gaza authorities. The border had already been a flashpoint since March 30 with Palestinians rallying against the US embassy move and calling on Israel to lift its crippling decade-long blockade of Gaza.
Protesters also demand refugees should be allowed to return to homes their families fled in the late 1940s during the war surrounding Israel’s creation.
On May 16, Guatemala becomes the second country to transfer its embassy to Jerusalem. Paraguay follows suit but returns to Tel Aviv less than four months later.
The US embassy in Jerusalem is inaugurated on May 14, 2018 in a high-profile ceremony attended by President Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner.
Other countries indicate they also want to make the move, but none take action.
Upsurge in Violence
On May 29-30, the Israeli army pounds dozens of military targets in Gaza after a barrage of rockets and mortars are fired from the enclave. On July 14, Israel carries out air strikes on Gaza after border clashes and a confrontation with Hamas, the Islamist movement that rules the enclave.
Some 200 rockets and mortars are fired from Gaza into Israel. Border protests continue, as do rounds of rocket attacks at Israel and retaliatory strikes, each seeming to bring the two sides closer to a full-blown confrontation.
Nearly 300 Palestinians and six Israelis have been killed in the violence in and around Gaza since the border protests started in March 2018.
Sanctions against Palestinians
On August 24, the US cancels more than $200 million in aid initially earmarked for Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, redirecting it to “high-priority projects elsewhere”. A week later it says it will end all funding for the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA.
Guatemala becomes the second country to transfer its embassy to Jerusalem. Paraguay follows suit but returns to Tel Aviv less than four months later.
On September 10, the Trump administration says it is closing the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) mission in Washington – the de facto Palestinian embassy – because it “has not taken steps to advance the start of direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel”.
On March 4, 2019, the US downgrades its diplomatic mission to the Palestinians by closing its Jerusalem consulate general. PLO secretary-general Saeb Erekat calls the closure “the last nail in the coffin of the US administration’s role in peacemaking”.
US Peace Plan Upcoming
On April 10, Trump says the re-election of right-wing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will give a “better chance” to a promised US plan for peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
Crafted by Kushner, who is also a senior adviser to Trump, the plan is expected to be unveiled in June. On May 2, Kushner says his plan will pull back from longstanding mentions of a two-state solution to the conflict.