Recognition of the city as Israel’s capital has divided the Palestinian public and could lead to violence
Dozens of Palestinians were injured in clashes with Israeli security forces, as people took to the streets of the West Bank for three “Days of Rage” called for by Ramallah in the wake of U.S. President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The violence reflected the anger felt by both the Palestinian public and its leadership, which has threatened to torpedo the peace process just as the White House is devising a plan to jump-start negotiations.
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh called for “a new Intifada [popular uprising]” and described the American decision as a “declaration of war” against Palestinians. “We must [launch] an Intifada that will fight the occupation and put [Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin] Netanyahu’s face in the ground,” Haniyeh stated, adding that Jerusalem belongs only to Palestinians and Muslim nations.
For his part, Palestinian Authority (PA) Prime Minister Rami Al-Hamdallah, in a speech from the Gaza Strip, slammed President Trump’s decision as unacceptable and provocative and stressed that “the right response to the move is [to forge] national unity.”
Addie Awwad, a Palestinian political analyst, believes the American initiative marks a potential turning point in the Palestinian reconciliation process. “It depends on the PA’s strategy,” he explained to The Media Line, “if [President Mahmoud Abbas] chooses to defy the new U.S. policy, then it will pave the way for unity with Hamas. However, if the PA decides to maintain the status quo, this will lead to a strategic division.”
Awwad described President Trump as “the most non-traditional” leader in American history, who simply “acknowledged the obvious facts on ground that Israel has created since its inception, which many prefer to ignore.” Nevertheless, he elaborated, the U.S. president’s move both “severely damaged the PA’s legitimacy and made clear that international organizations and their laws and resolutions have no effect and cannot maintain peace and security.
“Trump proved yet again that hard power is the only approach to bringing about justice.”
Awwad further contended that American recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital was a stark message to the Palestinians that their prospective state will never include all of the territories Israel captured during the 1967 war, thereby leaving the them “with no room to maneuver to achieve their basic right to self-determination.”
In this respect, a Palestinian activist, who spoke to The Media Line on condition of anonymity, said that the recognition of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital would “push united Palestinians to return to the essence of the true goal, which is getting Palestine back.”
But not all Palestinians are convinced that a third Intifada is the right route to take. Multiple businessmen, for example, told The Media Line that each day of protests or work strikes costs them financially. “We rely on Israel for importing and exporting [goods] so any problem will see us pay an even bigger price,” one entrepreneur stated.
Palestinian residents of Jerusalem also fear that their status could change in parallel to the city’s, especially if there is a major outbreak of violence. “Israel may strip away my residency status and make Shuafat and Beit Hanina part of the West Bank,” one concerned woman told The Media Line. “If this happens we won’t have any access to Jerusalem at all.” Nevertheless, she was not surprised by the White House’s decision, “which was the result of Arab leaders’ support for Trump and his policies.”
Some Palestinians are thus demanding action from the PA, with one youth telling The Media Line that “we must cut ties with Israel and the U.S. and fight for our cause. I don’t know about a third Intifada, but the American move killed any potential for peace talks and ended its role as an honest broker.”
Nabeel Amro, a former information minister in the Palestinian Authority, told The Media Line that it is too early to predict the steps Abbas will take in response to the American move, which he asserted “will negatively impact the peace process and make it difficult for Trump to reach a historic deal between the Palestinians and Israelis.”
Amro also noted that the change in Jerusalem’s status comes on the heels of other blows to the Palestinians. “The U.S. also just threatened to close the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) office in Washington and is cutting its financial aid to the PA. The Americans are giving preference to Israel,” he concluded.
On the latter point, the U.S. Congress this week passed The Taylor Force Act—named after an American citizen killed in a terror attack in Tel Aviv—confronting the PA with the prospect of losing U.S. financial support if it maintains a policy of paying monthly salaries to Palestinian prisoners.
Gad Shimron, an Israeli political analyst, believes that Arab countries should not oppose President Trump’s decision. “When we reach a peace agreement with the Palestinians, they will have their American Embassy in the eastern part of Jerusalem,” he contended to The Media Line. “I don’t understand why Arabs prefer to start losing battles.”
In the wake of the American announcement, both the Czech Republic and the Philippines expressed a desire to move their respective embassies to Jerusalem. Russia, which recognized west Jerusalem as Israel’s capital earlier this year, announced its recognition of the eastern part of the city as the capital of a future Palestinian state.