Most Israelis think moving US embassy will spark violence, but still say do it
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Most Israelis think moving US embassy will spark violence, but still say do it

Nearly 60% say that anticipated unrest shouldn’t stymie plan to relocate American mission on 70th anniversary of Israeli independence

Palestinians help evacuate an injured protester during clashes with Israeli troops, near Khan Yunis, by the border fence between Israel and the southern Gaza Strip, on March 9, 2018.  (AFP PHOTO / SAID KHATIB)
Palestinians help evacuate an injured protester during clashes with Israeli troops, near Khan Yunis, by the border fence between Israel and the southern Gaza Strip, on March 9, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / SAID KHATIB)

A majority of Israelis say moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem will spark regional violence, but still support transferring the American diplomatic mission to the capital, according to a poll released Thursday.

The monthly Israel Democracy Institute and Tel Aviv University Peace Index survey found that 61 percent of the 600 Arab and Jewish respondents polled said the move was “very likely” to spark violent Palestinian protests.

Nevertheless, 69% Jewish Israelis said the anticipated Palestinian response shouldn’t be an excuse to postpone the opening scheduled for May, while 77% of Arab Israelis said Israel should ask the US to change the move date.

Last month, US President Donald Trump announced the new US embassy in Jerusalem would open on May 14 to coincide with the 70th anniversary of Israel’s independence. The announcement was met with widespread anger among the Palestinians, prompting calls for enormous protest events, the largest of them planned for the Gaza Strip.

The expected protests will also coincide with Nakba Day, a national day of Palestinian mourning marking the “catastrophe” of Israel’s founding, commemorated every year on May 15.

The Hamas terrorist organization that runs the Gaza Strip has warned it would not be able to contain the mass Palestinian protests against the embassy move. Earlier in March, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said “tens of thousands” of Gazans would march on the borders to protest the US move.

View of the US Consulate in Jerusalem’s Arnona neighborhood, February 24, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Palestinian groups in the Gaza Strip have also called for a sit-in protest along the border in the weeks leading up to Nakba Day.

Organizers say a tent city is being erected near the border to protest Israel’s refusal to grant Palestinian refugees and their descendants a full “right of return” — permission to live in Israel.

That border is the site of frequent violent flareups between Palestinian protesters and Israeli troops. Over the last two months, Israeli military patrols along the border have twice been targeted by improvised explosive devices detonated along the security fence.

In February, an IED explosion in February injured four soldiers, while a similar blast along the border earlier this month did not injure any troops. The IDF in response conducted a series of strikes in the Strip and released public statements in Arabic directed at Gazans, warning them to stay away from the border fence.

According to reports, the IDF has eased its open-fire restrictions in response to the heightened tensions, allowing soldiers to use lethal fire to prevent approaches to the border in the wake of the ramped-up tensions.

Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.

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