On Monday, May 14, some of the president's advisers appeared in Jerusalem to mark a historic occasion: The opening of the new U.S. embassy in the holy city. But the opening of the embassy has been anything but a celebration for many as the decision has sparked violent protests in the region. Adding to an already tense situation, Jared Kushner's embassy speech in Jerusalem has been drawing a host of reactions for a few key reasons.
Monday marked the 70th anniversary of the country's modern establishment, and Kushner, son-in-law and adviser to President Donald Trump, delivered his speech at the new embassy as violent protests continued to erupt just a few dozen miles away.
"I am so proud to be here today in Jerusalem, the eternal heart of the Jewish people," said Kushner before the crowd Monday. "I am especially honored to be here today as a representative of the 45th president of the United States, Donald J. Trump."
Until now, the U.S. embassy in Israel had been located in the capital city of Tel Aviv. The decision to move the embassy to Jerusalem is rife with controversy; the international community generally does not recognize the battleground city of Jerusalem as belonging either to Israel or to Palestine, and in a bold statement, Trump labeled Jerusalem "the true capital" of the country.
The United Nations overwhelmingly opposed the decision to move the U.S. embassy in December. But the move was a campaign promise of Trump's, for which Kushner praised him in his remarks Monday.
"While presidents before him have backed down from their pledge to move the American embassy once in office, this president delivered," Kushner said of Trump at the event. "Because when President Trump makes a promise, he keeps it."
The move has sparked massive protests in the region. Clashes on the Israel-Gaza border have been ongoing since March 30, per The New York Times, resulting in scores of casualties.
On Twitter, human rights group Amnesty International called the violent scene in Gaza "an abhorrent violation of international law & human rights," noting that the current clashes would constitute war crimes. "The Israeli authorities show no signs they intend to rein in excessive force," it added.
As of 4:30 p.m. local time, the Times reports, at least 52 people had been killed by Israeli forces and over 1,700 Palestinians were injured in Monday's protests.
"As we have seen from the protests of the last month and even today, those provoking violence are part of the problem and not part of the solution," Kushner added in his speech.
On Twitter, users reacted to the fact that Kushner spoke ill of the protesters at the same time that scores of those same people were still being killed in the clashes.
Some took issue not with a particular line in Kushner's speech, but that the president's adviser was delivering remarks at all. "I missed the part where I voted for Jared Kushner, or he had the background to be the voice of the United States, or heck, even security clearance," tweeted Amy Siskind, president of women's rights organization The New Agenda. (Although, Kushner made it clear in his remarks he was there representing the president, which assumedly means his role Monday was as senior adviser.)
Kushner's and his father-in-law's speeches come as the administration endures another tumultuous week, particularly for international relations. On May 8, Trump made one of the most shocking decisions of his presidency thus far, vowing to leave the Iran nuclear deal, which President Barack Obama had brokered into existence in 2015, preventing Iran from continuing its development of nuclear weapons. The decision to leave the landmark multinational agreement had some of the world's major powers reeling in response, including sparking protests in Iran on Friday.
NPR's Steve Inskeep, in light of the fact that Kushner's speech followed on the heels of Trump's decision, saw one of his comments as a dig at his boss.
"At opening of US embassy in Jerusalem, Jared Kushner does a bit of subtle trolling. With embassy, he says, 'We have shown the world that the United States can be trusted.' His father-in-law, by withdrawing from Iran deal, was accused of showing the world the US cannot be trusted."
But despite the deadly protests raging just miles away, Kushner sought to strike an optimistic tone. "We believe it is possible for both sides to gain more than they give," he said, "so that all people can live in peace."