Pales­tine youths take to the streets in wake of Trump dec­la­ra­tion

Vi­o­lence erupts amid call for a ‘new in­tifada’ over plans to move the US em­bassy to Jerusalem

The Daily Telegraph - - World news - By Raf Sanchez in Beth­le­hem

IS­RAELI se­cu­rity forces clashed with young Pales­tini­ans in street bat­tles across the oc­cu­pied West Bank yes­ter­day as Ha­mas called for a “new in­tifada” in re­sponse to Don­ald Trump’s recog­ni­tion of Jerusalem as Is­rael’s cap­i­tal.

The Is­raeli mil­i­tary have called for re­in­force­ments in an­tic­i­pa­tion of fur­ther clashes to­day as thou­sands of young men are ex­pected to take to the streets in protest fol­low­ing tra­di­tional Fri­day prayers.

The UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil is to con­vene to dis­cuss the in­flamed sit­u­a­tion in the Mid­dle East af­ter Bri­tain and seven other states re­quested an emer­gency meet­ing to de­bate Mr Trump’s an­nounce­ment.

After­shocks of the US de­ci­sion were felt far be­yond the re­gion. In Am­s­ter­dam, a man car­ry­ing a Pales­tinian flag at­tacked a Jewish kosher restau­rant, and demon­stra­tors gath­ered in cities across Pak­istan.

Around 50 Pales­tini­ans suf­fered minor injuries dur­ing clashes with Is­raeli troops in the West Bank cities of Ra­mal­lah and Beth­le­hem. Young men hurled stones and set tyres alight to block roads, while Is­raeli troops fired tear gas and rub­ber bul­lets. In Beth­le­hem, smoke rose from among the Christ­mas dec­o­ra­tions adorn­ing the streets lead­ing to the Church of the Na­tiv­ity, built upon the site where Je­sus Christ is said to have been born.

The Is­raeli De­fence Forces (IDF) said two rock­ets were fired from Gaza on Thurs­day evening but both pro­jec­tiles fell short. The rock­ets were be­lieved to have been fired by the Salafist group and not Ha­mas. But later a “pro­jec­tile” landed in­side Is­rael from Gaza and the Is­raeli mil­i­tary re­tal­i­ated by strik­ing two Ha­mas posts, the army said.

Is­mail Haniyeh, the leader of Ha­mas, said yes­ter­day: “This Zion­ist policy sup­ported by the US can­not be con­fronted un­less we ig­nite a new in­tifada.” Speak­ing in Gaza, he added: “The US de­ci­sion is an ag­gres­sion, a dec­la­ra­tion of war on us, on the best Mus­lim and Chris­tian shrines in the heart of Pales­tine, Jerusalem.” Soon af­ter the speech, Has­san Nas­ral­lah, the leader of Hizbol­lah, the Le­banese mil­i­tant group backed by Iran, said he sup­ported the call for a new Pales­tinian in­tifada.

Both Hizbol­lah and Ha­mas have con­sid­er­able ar­se­nals but nei­ther group said that they planned to turn them on Is­rael in re­tal­i­a­tion for Mr Trump’s an­nounce­ment.

Is­raeli in­tel­li­gence has said in the past that it be­lieves nei­ther Ha­mas nor Hizbol­lah is ea­ger for di­rect mil­i­tary con­fronta­tion with Is­raeli forces but both would like to in­cite a mass up­ris­ing by or­di­nary Pales­tini­ans.

Mr Trump’s dec­la­ra­tion was met with broad con­dem­na­tion from US al­lies in the West and in the Mid­dle East.

Boris John­son, the For­eign Sec­re­tary, yes­ter­day said the move was “not help­ful”. Fed­er­ica Mogherini, the EU’S for­eign policy chief, warned the an­nounce­ment could “send us back­wards to even darker times”.

The Pales­tinian lead­er­ship said last night it was still for­mu­lat­ing a re­sponse.

Mike Pence, the US vice-pres­i­dent, is due to visit Beth­le­hem in 10 days’ time but Muham­mad Sh­tayyeh, a se­nior of­fi­cial in the gov­ern­ing Fatah party, said Pales­tini­ans were de­cid­ing whether to with­draw their in­vi­ta­tion. “Pres­i­dent Trump has made the US to­tally ir­rel­e­vant when it comes to the peace process,” Dr Sh­tayyeh said.

The US em­bassy in Jor­dan sus­pended ser­vices af­ter fac­ing protests in the cap­i­tal, Am­man. US diplo­matic posts across the Mus­lim world are ex­pect­ing protests to­day and warned US cit­i­zens that some of the demon­stra­tions “have the po­ten­tial to be­come vi­o­lent”.

Is­raelis con­tin­ued to cel­e­brate the US recog­ni­tion of Jerusalem as their cap­i­tal. The head­line “Thank You, Mr Pres­i­dent” was splashed across the front of the Is­rael Hayom news­pa­per, which is owned by Shel­don Adel­son, a pro-is­rael US casino mogul who urged Mr Trump to make the move.

The Is­raeli city of Kiryat Yam an­nounced that it would name a park af­ter Mr Trump as a sign of its grat­i­tude for his de­ci­sion. “Don­ald Trump proved to the en­tire world that Jerusalem is in his heart and we will prove to him in this way that he is in our hearts,” said David Even Zur, the city’s mayor.

The Czech Repub­lic yes­ter­day an­nounced it would par­tially fol­low the US lead and recog­nise west Jerusalem as the Is­raeli cap­i­tal.

Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu, the Is­raeli prime min­is­ter, said he had been con­tacted by “other coun­tries which will is­sue a sim­i­lar recog­ni­tion”.

Is­raeli me­dia re­ported that both the Philip­pines and Hun­gary – which are both led by au­thor­i­tar­ian lead­ers who ad­mire Mr Trump – were also con­sid­er­ing mov­ing their em­bassies.

Theresa May is now get­ting quite adept at slap­ping down Don­ald Trump, los­ing no time in at­tack­ing his de­ci­sion this week to recog­nise Jerusalem as the cap­i­tal of Is­rael. It was “un­help­ful in terms of prospects for peace in the re­gion,” she said: why hand the Is­raelis a prize that ought to come as an in­cen­tive to agree a peace deal with the Pales­tini­ans? She stopped short of say­ing what her min­is­ters have been think­ing for some time now – that their best hope for peace in the re­gion isn’t in the White House, but in Riyadh.

Their hopes are pinned on Mo­hammed bin Sal­man, the 32-yearold Crown Prince of Saudi Ara­bia and per­haps one of the most in­flu­en­tial lead­ers in the world. His re­cent de­ci­sion to let women drive was a test, to see if he could chal­lenge the author­ity of the cler­ics. It was a suc­cess, and since then the pace of change has been ex­tra­or­di­nary. Prince Mo­hammed is re­shap­ing Saudi Ara­bia so quickly that one Bri­tish of­fi­cial who was there re­cently told me he felt he had “got off at the wrong coun­try”.

The re­li­gious po­lice have been called off. Restau­rants and cafes now play mu­sic; women can go the gym; young Saudis can now be seen on dates in cof­fee shops. Saudi Na­tional Day, which fell a few weeks ago, was cel­e­brated not only with pub­lic danc­ing but women in at­ten­dance, for the first time. The Crown Prince says he is bet­ting on de­mo­graph­ics: two thirds of his coun­try­men are un­der the age of 30 and, he says, they’ve have had enough of re­li­gious ex­trem­ists. This was all sure to arouse op­po­si­tion, so he took the pre­cau­tion of lock­ing up crit­ics and their po­ten­tial spon­sors in the Riyadh Ritz-carl­ton, all on charges of cor­rup­tion (fairly easy to trump up in a nation where cor­rup­tion is en­demic).

The au­dac­ity is ex­tra­or­di­nary, and it has Theresa May’s gov­ern­ment in thrall. “We have been talk­ing for years about lib­er­al­is­ing the re­gion, but he is suc­ceed­ing where war would have failed,” says one se­nior min­is­ter. “If there were crowds there, we’d call it a Saudi spring”. There’s huge op­ti­mism, not just about po­ten­tial Bri­tish in­volve­ment in his vast plans to build new cities and re­build the nation but in his abil­ity to re­cast the Mid­dle East as well. For the Crown Prince also be­lieves that he can bro­ker an Is­raeli-pales­tinian peace deal, and his al­lies in Lon­don think he just might do it.

Fairly soon, Iraq will de­clare vic­tory in the war against the Is­lamic State, whose ji­hadists have fi­nally been cleared (and in some cases, bussed) out of Mo­sul and Raqqa. Bri­tain has been sec­ond only to Amer­ica in help­ing with this mis­sion, but the mil­i­tary has a very tight re­mit: to neu­tralise – that is, kill – the ji­hadists and then go home. This is a huge frus­tra­tion for the Bri­tish gen­er­als who have been in­volved in the cam­paign: they want to stay and help sta­bilise these re­gions. Some feel that the Ira­ni­ans, who were heav­ily in­volved on the ground, will now move into areas con­ve­niently cleared by the UK and US.

At the Min­istry of De­fence, the feel­ing is that the hasty re­treat will cre­ate the con­di­tions for a new con­flict, be­cause the Saudis would not stand for a sit­u­a­tion where the gov­ern­ment in Bagh­dad be­comes a pup­pet of Tehran. As one of­fi­cial puts it: “don’t be sur­prised if we’re dragged back there in an­other few years”.

This is why Prince Mo­hammed wants to act now: to push back Ira­nian prox­ies, in Iraq and Ye­men, be­fore they make too much progress. When Houthi rebels in Ye­men fired a bal­lis­tic mis­sile at Riyadh last month, he said it could be an “act of war”

– and he is look­ing for al­lies in this war.

The hope in the For­eign Of­fice is that the Crown Prince would cre­ate a coali­tion of the will­ing that unites Is­rael with the Sunni Arab states, who spon­sor the Pales­tini­ans. “The deal, wait­ing to be done, is peace-for-land,” says one se­nior Bri­tish of­fi­cial. “And Sal­man can do it. He has the power, the will and the im­pa­tience. He’s a his­tory maker.”

A land-for-peace deal has been pro­posed by the Saudis be­fore, in a 10-sen­tence plan where Is­rael would give up its post-1967 con­quests in re­turn for a ceasefire and a two-state so­lu­tion. At the time, the Is­raelis said any sur­ren­dered ground would be used as a launch pad for rocket at­tacks, so the deal came to noth­ing. But three fac­tors have changed: the sense of a com­mon and ur­gent Ira­nian threat, the hard-charg­ing style of the young Crown Prince and fi­nally (ac­cord­ing to Bri­tish of­fi­cials) the new prospect of plenty of Saudi money for both Is­raeli evictees and Pales­tini­ans, should they ac­cept.

Prince Mo­hammed, like Don­ald Trump, sees him­self as a deal­maker who suc­ceeds be­cause he flouts and rewrites the rules of diplo­macy. Last month, he sum­moned Mah­moud Ab­bas, the Pales­tinian pres­i­dent, for talks in Riyadh and ap­par­ently told him to ac­cept a pretty bad deal: he’d have his in­de­pen­dent Pales­tinian state, but he’d have to let Is­rael keep quite a lot of the dis­puted ter­ri­tory. And if Ab­bas wouldn’t ac­cept the deal, then the Saudis would re­place him with some­one who would.

It’s a long shot: one Cabi­net mem­ber es­ti­mates that there is about a one-in-five chance of Prince Mo­hammed’s gam­bit suc­ceed­ing. And it’s all very hard to tell: was his ini­tial of­fer to Ab­bas a bluff, to be re­placed with a later one? Are the Amer­i­cans play­ing along, pre­tend­ing to fall out with the Saudis over plans to build an em­bassy in Jerusalem? Jared Kush­ner, Trump’s son-in-law and Mid­dle East en­voy, has made sev­eral trips to Riyadh which sug­gests quite a de­gree of co-or­di­na­tion.

This form of diplo­macy – se­cre­tive meet­ings, forced res­ig­na­tions, sweep­ing state­ments, mass im­pris­on­ment of crit­ics – makes the peace process hard to pre­dict. The prospect of it all back­fir­ing is quite high; a mis­judg­ment from the White House could well ruin ev­ery­thing.

But Don­ald Trump is right to say that the diplo­matic ap­proaches of the past 15 years have not achieved much for Is­rael or Pales­tine and that the “ul­ti­mate deal” be­tween the two is there, wait­ing to be done. Even if it is a Saudi prince who ends up do­ing it.

Is­raeli po­lice scuf­fle with a pro­tester out­side Da­m­as­cus Gate in Jerusalem’s Old City

A mu­ral de­pict­ing the US pres­i­dent is de­faced at an Is­raeli bar­rier in Beth­le­hem in the West Bank

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