‘This will be bad’: Clashes break out in West Bank over Trump Jerusalem speech

‘This will be bad’: Clashes break out in West Bank over Trump Jerusalem speech

For Israelis, Thursday was a day of celebration as most of the country basked in the glow President Trump’s speech recognizing Jerusalem as their capital, but for Palestinians, it was a day of mourning, rage and protests.

In the West Bank, the Palestinian Authority called for a general strike and in Gaza, the Islamist Hamas movement called for its followers to ignite a third intifada, or uprising, against Israel.

Angry statements condemning Trump’s decision also filled newspaper headlines in Arab countries across the region

Trump’s announcement on Wednesday that he would move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and his declaration that he recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, reversed a decades-old U.S. policy. Many fear the step could spark another bloody conflict in the region.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh called for a new uprising in the Palestinian territories and for Friday to be a day of rage.

“Tomorrow should be a day of rage and the beginning of a broad movement for an uprising that I call ‘the intifada of freedom of Jerusalem,” he said.

He called on the Palestinian Authority to stop security coordination with Israel and “enable the resistance in the occupied West Bank to respond to this blatant aggression.”

“Our people and factions of the resistance are in a permanent meeting to follow developments to confront this strategic threat that threatens the city of Jerusalem,” he added.

Israel’s army said it was preparing for an increase in violence in the coming days and had beefed up its troops in the West Bank, adding reinforcements its combat intelligence and territorial defense units.

U.S. institutions in the regions were also readying themselves for a possible violent fallout. Reuters reported that a State Department communique had been sent to diplomats at the embassy in Tel Aviv with talking points to convey to Israeli officials.

“While I recognize that you will publicly welcome this news, I ask that you restrain your official response,” Reuters reported the document dated Dec. 6 said as saying. “We expect there to be resistance to this news in the Middle East and around the world. We are still judging the impact this decision will have on U.S. facilities and personnel overseas.”

In the televised speech Wednesday, Trump said that presidents before him had signed a waiver delaying the recognition of Jerusalem under the belief that it might advance the cause of peace. But, he said, “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.”

“Therefore, I have determined that it is time to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel,” he said.

Successive U.S. administrations have held off moving the embassy from Tel Aviv since the mid-1990s, in line with an international consensus that Jerusalem’s status should be decided in a final peace agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians. 

Israelis see Jerusalem as their eternal and undivided capital, while for Palestinians, the eastern part of the city is the future capital of a Palestinian state. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said the U.S. move would galvanize the Palestinian struggle for independence. 

Following Trump’s announcement, Abbas said the United States could no longer be a fair mediator in the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians. 

The Palestinian Authority called for three days of rage and ordered all Palestinians national institutions in the West Bank and Gaza to strike on Thursday. Schools and government offices from Ramallah to Hebron were shuttered. 

In Ramallah, the de facto Palestinian capital, young men burned tires and blocked roads with garbage canisters ahead of planned protests. The Israeli military reported that there had already been some clashes. 

The Palestinians, backed by Turkey say that recognizing Jerusalem is in breach of both international law and UN resolutions. Eight countries on the 15-member UN security council called for an emergency meeting to discuss the matter. It is scheduled for Friday. 

Despite the note of caution from the State Department, the mood in Israel was buoyant, with government minister and commentators declaring a diplomatic victory for the Jewish state and for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Speaking at a Foreign Ministry conference in Jerusalem on Thursday, Netanyahu heralded Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as a “historic statement.” 

“President Trump has always linked himself to the history of our capital,” he said. “His name will now float along with other names in the context of the glorious history of Jerusalem and our people.”

The prime minister also said that he had already been in contact with other countries that were also ready to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. 

“I have no doubt that as soon as the American Embassy moves to Jerusalem, and even before that, many embassies will move to Jerusalem. it’s about time.”

In columns published in Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth, commentators Nahum Barnea and Shimon Shiffer also commended Trump for his bravery in righting what Israelis see as, a 70-year-old wrong. 

“Those opposed to the American recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital are wrong. Trump is right. He is right about the issue itself: the 70-year-old refusal by the world to formally recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel was a foolish mistake, which was the result of diplomatic cowardice and neglect by Israeli governments,” wrote Barnea. 

“Moreover, no agreement appears to be anywhere on the horizon. The argument as if the speech would damage the peace process is ridiculous since there is no peace process,” he said. 

In his piece, Shiffer compared the U.S. president to the little boy in the Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale The Emperor’s New Clothes. 

“He saw reality for what it is and spoke it out loud.”

Eglash reported from Jerusalem and Morris reported from Ramallah. Hazem Balousha in Gaza contributed to this report.

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