41 deaths and 128 angry countries: The true cost of Trump’s bargain embassy in Jerusalem

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Image: Reuters/Ronen Zvulun
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Updated on May 14, 2:50 pm EST.

Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner are in Jerusalem today to inaugurate the US’s new embassy. The embassy was moved from Tel Aviv, a controversial change as Jerusalem is claimed as a capital by both Israelis and Palestinians.

Donald Trump announced the move in December 2017. The US president has since highlighted the low cost of the operation, claiming he reduced the cost of building a new embassy from $1 billion to less than half a million, by temporarily adapting a pre-existing US government building. (The cost of eventually building a permanent embassy will likely be greater.)

Trump celebrated today with a tweet.

His daugher Ivanka described the embassy opening as a “momentous ceremony” and shared a photo of herself by Jerusalem’s Western Wall, calling for prayers of peace.

But only a few hours into its existence, the new embassy has already shown its true cost: devastating bloodshed.

By 10 pm local time, at least 52 Palestinian protestors had been killed in Gaza by Israeli troops, and 1,200 were wounded in deadliest day in years for the border conflict. The death toll is expected to rise as protests against the embassy continue through the week. While the embassy’s inauguration this week was timed to coincide with the 70th anniversary of Israel’s foundation, it also coincides with Nakba Day: an annual day of mourning for Palestinians.

Today’s casualties included at least three children and a woman, as well as a medic who was reportedly shot while trying to attend to wounded protestors.

Palestinians aren’t the only ones protesting the embassy move: When Trump’s decision was discussed at the United Nations in December, 128 countries condemned it, including key allies like Germany, the UK, and France. All of these countries boycotted the inauguration ceremony.

At the time of the decision, even Trump’s own team wasn’t especially convinced by it; both secretary of defense James Mattis and then-secretary of state Rex Tillerson reportedly tried to dissuade the president.

Supporters of the move include casino magnate Sheldon Adelson and his wife Miriam Ochsorn, who are the largest individual donors to the Republican party.