U.S. officials are closely monitoring the security situation in Israel ahead of a historic ceremony celebrating the opening of the new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem, according to senior Trump administration officials.
Senior administration officials acknowledged the potential for violence as armed protests by Palestinians continue along Israel's border with the Gaza Strip, but emphasized their preparedness and close coordination with Israeli security organizations.
The opening of the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem became a reality when Trump made good on a campaign promise to relocate the embassy from its longstanding perch in Tel Aviv to Israel's capital city of Jerusalem. Monday's celebration is expected to attract more than 800 dignitaries, officials, and others.
The move has splintered U.S. allies, some of whom have praised the move and some who have objected, warning that such a recognition of Jerusalem of Israel's capital by the United States would further foment violence and make it more difficult to broker a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians.
The Trump administration has objected to these arguments, telling reporters that Hamas terrorists and their supporters are the ones chiefly responsible for engaging in violence in the region.
The security situation for the embassy opening is expected to be incredibly tight, U.S. officials said.
"In terms of potential conflicts, we look at this issue hourly," according to one senior administration official who was only authorized to speak on background. "We work closely with our law enforcement and security establishments here, and our own people here from the United States."
The United States also is working closely with Israel's security apparatus, the official said.
"We work closely with Israeli police, with the Shin Bet, and we measure the risk of demonstrations and violence minute by minute," the official explained. "And so we're confident that we're considering all potential issues and risks, and doing everything we can to mitigate those risks and to keep people safe."
A second senior administration official emphasized that the violence along Israel's border by Gaza is chiefly being perpetuated by Hamas terrorists seeking to further inflame regional tensions.
"We support the right for peace—to peaceful protest," said the second official. "But the operative word there is peaceful, and particularly as you look at what's going on down in Gaza, there are a lot of people who are legitimately protesting the very, very difficult humanitarian situation that they are enduring. But at the same time, you have some people flying kites as symbols of freedom, you have some people flying kites with Swastikas, and gas bombs attached to them, and that's intolerable."
"I think we need to blame that violence not on anything the United States has done or Israel has done, but firmly on Hamas," the official said.
U.S. personnel stationed in Israel are said to be excited about the impending move and efforts are already underway to relocate a number of officials to the new Jerusalem embassy, the officials said, adding that officials held a toast early Friday saying goodbye to the Tel Aviv offices.
"We just had a little toast where we all got together and toasted our last day as Embassy Tel Aviv on Monday," said the official. "People will be coming back to work as the embassy branch of the Jerusalem embassy, and we're—I think we're all very happy and excited to be participating in such a historic event."
"People have been working literally around the clock in getting ready for our opening dedication ceremony on Monday," the official noted. "We'll be ready. We are expecting about 800 people. We are expecting a healthy number of dignitaries from the Congress. You're aware of the presidential delegation; there'll be others."