‘Day of rage’ in Mideast
As Palestinians and Israelis clash, U.S. allies denounce move
RAMALLAH, West Bank — Protests erupted throughout the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and cities across the Middle East in what was dubbed a “day of rage” on Thursday after President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Trump said Wednesday that he would “officially recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital,” sparking worldwide outrage, including from Washington’s closest allies in the region. Demonstrators
burned posters of Trump and American flags. Some Palestinian leaders called for a new intifada, or uprising, in response to the controversial move.
In the wake of Trump’s speech, Palestinian factions called for a general strike on Thursday, and the Palestinian Education Ministry canceled classes so students and teachers could participate in the demonstrations.
Thousands of residents poured into major thoroughfares in Ramallah, Jericho, Hebron and Bethlehem, as well as East Jerusalem’s Damascus Gate. Palestinians have long regarded the eastern, Arab-dominated part of Jerusalem as the future capital of a Palestinian state.
“How can the president of the United States flout international resolutions and ignore the feelings of millions of Arabs and Muslims?” asked Suha Arrar,
a 43-year-old employee at the Palestinian Ministry of Health. She said she had come out to protest “the unprecedented arrogance of the U.S. administration.”
Ahmed Ghneim, a leader with the Palestinian faction Fatah, expressed his rejection of the Trump decision, adding that the “honeymoon” between Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would not come without costs.
“For 30 years, the Palestinian leadership thought the U.S. was the key to the solution,” he said. “Trump’s decision proved this key is not suitable for any solution.”
Mustafa Barghouthi, a Palestinian politician in the West Bank, insisted that Trump’s decision “forbids Palestinians from having any contact with the U.S.,” which, he said, “has completely lost its role as a broker of the peace process.”
Clashes flared between the protesters and Israeli troops, who deployed water cannons and fired what appeared to be rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse the demonstrators.
The Palestine Red Crescent Society said in a statement Thursday that it had treated more than 108 wounded in Gaza and the West Bank, adding that a number had been shot with live ammunition.
Ismail Haniyah, head of the Palestinian militant group Hamas, said Trump’s announcement marked “a new equation” in the “Satanic alliance” between the U.S and Israel that could “only be confronted by launching the spark of a new intifada.” He added that Jerusalem was “unified,” and Palestinian.
“There is no existence for Israel on the land of Palestine. It has no presence on the land of Palestine for it to have a capital,” he said. “We declare … that what is called the peace process has been buried.”
U.S. allies reject move
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas began a round of diplomatic maneuvering by meeting Jordan’s King Abdullah in Amman, where police had blocked roads leading to the U.S. Embassy in the West Amman neighborhood of Abdoun to prevent protesters from reaching its grounds.
Both leaders, according to a statement, “affirmed that any measure to tamper with the historical and legal status of Jerusalem is null and void and will only lead to more tension and violence in the region and the world.”
Regional leaders echoed the sentiment, with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan saying on Thursday that it was a “step that would throw … this region into a ring of fire.”
Late Wednesday, Egypt said the decision would inflame anger in the Arab and Muslim worlds. The grand imam of Egypt’s al-azhar, the premier seat of Sunni learning, also rejected the move, accusing Trump of denying Palestinians their right to Jerusalem.
Even stalwart U.S. allies such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — otherwise admirers of Trump’s presidency — criticized the administration over the new policy.
The Saudi government described the decision as an “irresponsible and unwarranted step,” according to the state-run news agency. Qatar warned of “serious repercussions” for stability in the region.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-abadi, who has partnered closely with the United States in the fight against the Islamic State, said the move could lead to “dangerous escalation” in the region.
“The U.S. administration must reverse this unjust decision,” al-abadi said Thursday. Iraq’s Foreign Ministry said it had summoned U.S. Ambassador Douglas Silliman to receive a formal letter of protest.
Jerusalem, though divided, is considered holy by Jews, Christians and Muslims.
Meanwhile, Netanyahu thanked Trump for his “historic announcement” and insisted that other countries would soon follow suit and move their embassies to Jerusalem.
‘God is weeping’
Beyond the region, German Chancellor Angela Merkel restated her opposition to the policy. “It is clear that in the framework of negotiating a two-state solution the status of Jerusalem also needs to be dealt with,” she said. “In that context, we disagree with the decision yesterday.”
Merkel’s remarks were in line with critical statements earlier from major European allies of the United States such as Britain, France, Germany and the Netherlands.
In Pakistan, demonstrators protested in Islamabad, Karachi and Peshawar. Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi called the move “a serious setback to the rule of law” and against “international norms.”
He urged the United States to “revisit its decision as soon as possible in order to avoid the potentially grave repercussions in the region and beyond.”
And in Johannesburg, ailing Nobel laureate Desmond Tutu said in a rare public statement: “God is weeping over President Donald Trump’s inflammatory and discriminatory recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. … It is our responsibility to tell Mr. Trump that he is wrong.”
Elsewhere, militants who have fought U.S. troops in Afghanistan and Iraq took the opportunity to condemn both Israel and the United States.
Akram al-kaabi, head of the Iran-backed Nujaba militia in Iraq, called Trump’s decision “foolish” and predicted that it would spark an uprising. He added that the move legitimizes attacks on U.S. forces, of which there are thousands in Iraq.
A Palestinian burned an America flag Thursday during clashes with Israeli troops near the Jewish settlement of Beit El in the West Bank. U.S. allies decried President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Palestinian children on Thursday looked at a vandalized image of President Donald Trump and slogans against Vice President Mike Pence painted on Israel’s controversial separation wall in the West Bank city of Bethlehem.