Clashes in Israel after Trump’s Jerusalem move
Palestinian youths clashed with Israeli troops as Hamas called for a “new intifada” in response to Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The UN Security Council is to discuss the inflamed situation in an emergency meeting to debate Mr Trump’s announcement.
THE US embassy in Jerusalem is likely to be built on what is today a muddy field on the site of a former British Army barracks.
Ever since 1989, when the Israelipalestinian peace process began to gather steam, the US government has leased the land from Israel for just $1 (74p).
The 7.7 acre site, which is off one of the main thoroughfares in west Jerusalem, has remained mysteriously empty for nearly 30 years, even as shopping malls and housing units have risen around it.
Many observers now believe it is being kept open to house the American embassy in Israel.
The site was once the home of the Allenby Barracks, a British garrison named after General Edmund Allenby, who captured Jerusalem from the Ottomans 100 years ago.
British troops abandoned the barracks when they withdrew from the Palestinian mandate in 1948 and the site was later used by Israeli police. As with so many other sites in the tortured political geography of Jerusalem, ownership of the land is controversial. Palestinians assert that some of the land was owned by families who fled during the 1948 war and were never allowed to return, leaving their land to be confiscated by the new Israeli state. Another part was allegedly owned by the Waqf, the Muslim religious authority which manages the al-aqsa mosque.
When a US senator raised concerns about the ownership of the site in 1989,
the state department said it had carried out “a thorough title search” and could find no evidence of the Waqf’s claims.
A major study carried out by Walid Khalidi, the Palestinian academic, concluded there was merit to the Palestinian claims and it was therefore “unbecoming for the United States’s future embassy in that city to be built on land that is stolen property”.
Palestinian opponents of the embassy move might try to tie the process up in court by arguing over land rights.
US officials said there had been no final decision on where the American embassy would be located and that the process of moving it from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem would likely take four years or more.
A few yards from the site, Nasri Abu Rajab, a 33-year-old Palestinian construction worker, was setting pavement tiles.
He had woken up at 2.30am at his home in the village of Yatta, in the occupied West Bank, to come through a military checkpoint to work in Jerusalem, where a day’s shift is worth 220 shekels (£47).
He had watched Donald Trump’s speech, staying awake despite his exhaustion from a day of labouring.
When asked if he would work on building the new US embassy, Mr Abu Rajab shook his head and said he would refuse.
“Trump is talking nonsense,” he said. “He is deepening the conflict between Palestine and the Israelis. He should be bringing the two sides together to make peace.”
May 1948: a soldier at Allenby Barracks, Jerusalem, before the British withdrawal