The U.S. embassy in Jerusalem officially opened on Monday, five months after President Donald Trump announced that he would recognize the city as the capital of Israel, fulfilling a Trump campaign promise.
While the president did not attend the ceremony, he addressed the attendants via video message.
“Israel is a sovereign nation with the right, like every other sovereign nation, to determine its own capital,” Trump said in his message. “Yet for many years we failed to acknowledge the obvious, the plain reality that Israel’s capital is Jerusalem.”
Watch President Trump’s address for the opening of the embassy below:
The president went on to call for peace between Israel and the Palestinians, and welcomed U.S. Ambassador David Friedman to his new post at the embassy, calling the ceremony a “great day for Israel.”
“This city and this entire nation is a testament to the unbreakable spirit of the Jewish people. The United States will always be a great friend of Israel and a partner in the cause of freedom and peace,” Trump declared.
He stressed the U.S. commitment to the region said that he was “extending a hand of friendship to Israel, the Palestinians and to all of their neighbors.”
Big day for Israel. Congratulations!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 14, 2018
The ceremony was marked by a series of presentations by top members of the U.S. and Israeli delegations, including Trump’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, as well as Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin.
During his speech, Kushner made a point of touting the president’s decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Iran nuclear deal, drawing a standing ovation from many Israeli attendants who had advocated for the decision, including Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu.
Netanyahu also spoke at the ceremony, praising Trump for keeping his promises and strengthening the relationship between the U.S. and Israel.
The ceremony came as violence escalated on the Gaza border where Palestinians are fighting to gain east Jerusalem as their future capital. The decision to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem is seen as a move against the Palestinians, and as protests continued on the border, officials reported that at least 41 Palestinians were killed, according to The Associated Press.
The new embassy represents a shift in American diplomacy, which has long tried to take a neutral position in the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.
But members of the Trump administration praised the move and expressed hope that the U.S. will lead other nations to also recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
“The president is making difficult decisions because they are what he believes are the right long-term decisions and not just kicking the can down the road,” Mnuchin said during a Fox News interview.
Roughly 800 guests were expected to attend the ceremony to open the new embassy, including Republican Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Dean Heller of Nevada, and Mike Lee of Utah.