Protests and clashes erupted across the West Bank and Gaza following United States President Donald Trump’s official announcement on Wednesday to move the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. In his live address, at 1pm local time, Trump stated; “it is time to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel” and announced the State Department should begin preparations for the embassy move. He went on to say he had “judged this course of action to be in the best interests … of the pursuit of peace between Israel and the Palestinians.”
Peace surely didn’t come to the West Bank on Thursday, where between 1000 and 2000 Palestinians protested at al Manara square Ramallah before moving to Beit El checkpoint, resulting in clashes with Israel Defence Forces (IDF) and lasting from 11am into the night. IDF soldiers used live ammunition, rubber bullets and tear gas to suppress Palestinians throwing stones and lighting fires with rubber tires. A 32-year-old male protestor, holding back tears and catching his breath through tear gas inhalation, stated the Palestinian people and leaders refuse Trump’s decision. “We will continue with these clashes until Trump reverses his decision,” he said.
In Jerusalem itself, 40 Palestinians made their way to Damascus Gate in the Old City to raise the Palestinian flag, which the IDF soon after tried to confiscate. The soldiers then attacked a group of women speaking out against the US decision and the right Palestinians have to Jerusalem as their capital, before blocking any further people from entering the square in front of Damascus gate and pushing journalists away from the scene. A small group of Palestinians proceeded to move to America House, continuing the protest before police broke up the demonstration and confiscated the Palestinian flags they were waving.
East Jerusalem Palestinian resident, Mona Barba said Trump’s aim is for Jerusalem to be completely Jewish. “You shouldn’t give our capital to other people, we are under occupation, how can you take Jerusalem and give it to the people who occupied us as a capital for them. Trump [looks to] his Jewish friends, he does what they want him to do,” Barba said.
Protester Salwa also believes Trump has given “a gift to the Jews in America”. “Trump doesn’t know anything about history in Palestine. He’s without a brain. He doesn’t know anything about the situation in Jerusalem, Salwa expressed. Salwa, like many Palestinian activists want to show the world what Al Quds means to them. “It’s a struggle for a long time. This is our future. We will win. It’s our right, the right of our land, life and history.”
Bethlehem also faced clashes, where the IDF took to the rooftop of buildings to shoot rubber bullets at around 100 Palestinians, resulting in nearly 20 casualties. According to the Red Crescent Society, 108 people have been wounded in total across West Bank and Gaza, as of Thursday night.
The majority of Palestinians on the streets and taking part in protests are talking of a third intifada. “Trump, he is crazy,” 33 year old Oudeh Quran exclaimed. “He will make fire in the Middle East, an Intifada. There will be no peace if Trump takes Jerusalem for the Jewish.” An older man walks past as Quran concludes, yelling; “Trump is an animal for starting this.”
Considering the Second Intifada, in 2000, started after then Israel Prime Minister Ariel Sharon visited Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem’s Old City, it is possible the current clashes and protests will turn to something larger in scale. Hamas leader Ismail Haniya has called the US decision a “war declaration against Palestinians” and has himself called for another Intifada.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas reacted to Trump’s official announcement on Wednesday night stating the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel “goes against all the efforts to foster peace.” “In addition these measures are a way of thanking Israel which completely denies the legality of international agreements,” Abbas stated in his address. “It is an encouragement [for Israel] to continue its policy of apartheid and ethnic cleansing” Abbas sees Trump’s declaration as leading the region into an unending religious war.
In a briefing to the media in anticipation of Trump’s official announcement on Wednesday, November 6, Fatah’s Official Spokesperson Dr Nassa Al- Qudwa said the US has annulled “its status as co-sponsor of any peace and political process in the region.” Fatah also called on a complaint file to be lodged to the Security Council surrounding the US violations of Security Council resolutions. “By the same token, we believe there should be a draft resolution presented to the council, one that expresses rejections and [demands] compliance by the United States to the relevant Security Council resolutions,” Al- Qudwa stated.
Trump, on the other hand, dismissed the importance of Jerusalem in the peace process. “After more than two decades of waivers, we are no closer to a lasting peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. It would be folly to assume that repeating the exact same formula would now produce a different or better result,” he claimed.
Just as important as focusing on the destruction of a possible two state solution and the US role in mediation, the move and declaration of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, legitimizes their illegal annexation of East Jerusalem and the nearly 350,000 Palestinians who are stateless within the city. Following Trump’s official announcement, the Jerusalem City Hall projected the American and Israeli flag on the Old City’s walls, further proving the Palestinians residing within the city are not represented. President Abbas stated Jerusalem’s identity won’t be changed by a unilateral decision. “This identity will never be assassinated. It’s an attempt to change our identity and it will not succeed, .. it will not legitimise the Israeli view.”