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Jerusalem Row: Clashes Erupt Over Trump Move… 5 Take Aways From Policy Shift

Violence has flared between Israeli forces and Palestinians protesting at Donald Trump’s contentious recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Clashes erupted in the occupied West Bank and over the Israeli-Gaza border, where one Palestinian was killed.

Overall more than 200 were hurt, Palestinian medical sources said.

Tensions are high in the wake of Mr Trump’s announcement. His policy shift was hailed by Israel but condemned across the Arab and Islamic world.

Western allies of the US have also disavowed the move, which reversed decades of US neutrality on the status of Jerusalem.
Anger in the West Bank and delight in West Jerusalem
Israel has always regarded Jerusalem as its capital, while the Palestinians claim East Jerusalem – occupied by Israel in the 1967 war – as the capital of a future Palestinian state.

In recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the US became the first country to do so since the foundation of the state in 1948.

The US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has said it could take two years before the US embassy is relocated from Tel Aviv.
Where has there been violence?

In the West Bank, Israeli forces clashed with Palestinians in the cities of Bethlehem, Ramallah, Hebron and Nablus, as well as smaller locations.

Television pictures from Bethlehem showed water cannon or so-called skunk water being used against stone-throwing protesters.
Clouds of tear gas and thick, black smoke from burning tyres filled the air. There were also reports of rubber bullets being fired by troops.

Similar scenes were reported in other places where there were confrontations.

Israel had deployed extra battalions to the West Bank in anticipation of violence after Palestinian leaders called for protests after Friday prayers.

In East Jerusalem there were scuffles as police pushed back hundreds of demonstrators outside the Old City. The ancient walled area, containing contentious holy sites, is historically a flashpoint for violence.

At least 217 Palestinians were wounded in the confrontations in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, Palestinian medics said. A 30-year-old Palestinian was killed and dozens of others injured in Gaza after Israeli forces opened fire after protesters threw stones at army posts on the border.
Elsewhere, demonstrations against Mr Trump’s announcement have spread.
Thousands of pro-Palestinian protesters held noisy demonstrations in Jordan, Egypt, Iraq, Turkey, Tunisia and Iran.

Further afield, protesters rallied in Malaysia, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Indian-administered Kashmir and Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority country.
How has the international community reacted?

There has been widespread denunciation of Mr Trump’s move, especially in the Muslim world.
Image copyright AFP
Image caption Protests have swept the Arab world and further afield

America’s closest Arab allies, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan, have expressed their opposition, while Egypt, Bolivia, France, Italy, Senegal, Sweden, the UK and Uruguay have called an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council on Friday to discuss the step.

Which countries condemned Trump’s move?

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Mr Trump’s announcement was “deplorable” and a senior Palestinian official said US Vice President Mike Pence was “not welcome in Palestine” during a planned visit to the region later this month.

Israel’s arch-foe Iran accused Donald Trump of trying to provoke a war, while the Iran-backed Hezbollah movement in Lebanon called on the Muslim and Arab world to support a new intifada.

Israel itself has hailed the announcement as historic. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called it a “courageous and just decision”, while some 250 Israeli rabbis, including the chief rabbi of the Sephardi Jewish community, signed a letter thanking Mr Trump.
Why does Trump’s announcement matter?

Jerusalem is of huge importance to both Israel and the Palestinians. It contains sites sacred to the three major monotheistic faiths – Judaism, Islam and Christianity.

Israel occupied the eastern sector – previously occupied by Jordan – in 1967, and annexed it in 1980, but the move has never been recognised internationally.

Some 330,000 Palestinians live in East Jerusalem, along with about 200,000 Israeli Jews in a dozen settlements there. The settlements are considered illegal under international law, though Israel does not regard them as settlements but legitimate neighbourhoods.

What are the alternatives to a two-state solution?
Why settlement issue is so difficult:

According to the 1993 Israel-Palestinian peace accords, the final status of Jerusalem is meant to be discussed in the latter stages of peace talks.

The last round of talks between Israel and the Palestinians broke down in 2014 and while the US is formulating fresh proposals, Palestinian officials have said Mr Trump’s announcement has disqualified the US from brokering future negotiations.
Here are the five Takeaways From Jerusalem’s Policy Shift:
A blue Christmas for Palestinians

Less than a month ago the Palestinians’ top diplomat in Washington was telling me he thought President Trump might succeed at peacemaking where others had failed.

In every meeting Trump confirmed he would “give his heart and soul” to this process, said Husam Zomlot, the Palestine Liberation Organisation’s (PLO) representative.

It was an optimistic reading of a frequently rocky process. But there was enough in the efforts of Mr Trump’s peace envoys to give the Palestinians a sense that their relationship with the White House was on an upward trajectory.
Building off the momentum, Mr Zomlot organised a Christmas party on Capitol Hill with a guest list that included members of congress and government officials.

The idea was to live-stream Bethlehem Christmas celebrations into the political heart of America.
When the PLO mission got a late-breaking heads up about the decision on Jerusalem it cancelled the event, saying it would be unsuitable after an “announcement that runs counter to the message of peace”.
There is no strategy
The fact that the Palestinians, and reportedly Arab leaders, were largely taken by surprise is only one sign that the decision was not part of a wider Middle East strategy.
There’s been speculation that Mr Trump was trying to shake things up as a tactic to prepare the ground for peace talks.
But there’s far more evidence he was simply focused on keeping a campaign promise to pro-Israel American Jews and evangelical Christians in his political base.
According to multiple reports, Mr Trump was frustrated by continued opposition from his national security team, which gathered last Monday to discuss options on the embassy waiver.
That comes up every six months when the US is required by law to either move the American embassy from Tel Aviv or waive the congressional demand on security grounds.
US officials said he agreed to sign the waiver only with the promise of recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and launching a process to move the embassy.
“While previous presidents have made this a major campaign promise,” Mr Trump declared triumphantly in his speech, “they failed to deliver. Today, I am delivering.”
World reacts to Trump move on Jerusalem
It’s a Christian thing
The face of Mike Pence beaming over Mr Trump’s shoulder during the announcement said it all.
The vice-president was an influential voice in convincing Mr Trump to follow through on his campaign promise, and this illustrates the political power of hardline Christian evangelicals who fervently support Israel.
That was not lost on Palestinian legislator and Christian Hanan Ashrawi.
“My god did not tell me what his god tells him,” she spat out in an interview with the BBC.
“We are the original Christians, we are the owners of the land, we are the people who’ve been here for centuries. How dare they come here and give me biblical treatises and absolutist positions!”
Incidentally, the enterprising Mr Zomlot tried to play the Christian card with his Bethlehem-themed Capitol Hill reception, and has told activists the motto “Jesus is a gift from Palestine” might help translate the Palestinian message to Christian America.
A test of the new Middle East
Mr Trump’s announcement has triggered a strong reaction from Arab allies.
Jerusalem is holy land, not simply a disputed capital, meaning that Arab leaders will be less inclined to take pragmatic approaches they might ultimately adopt on other core issues of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
As custodians of Islam’s holy sites, Jordan and Saudi Arabia have issued warnings that this move could inflame the Muslim world. Why settlement issue is so difficult
But the Arab revolutions have shifted priorities away from the Palestinian cause towards containing Iran, especially among the Gulf states.
For that they have formed a quiet intelligence co-operation with Israel, and need Mr Trump onside.
If the Gulf Arab leaders make a lot of noise over Jerusalem but take no action, it will be further proof of a new Middle East.
The issue is two states
At the end of the day the question is not really whether Israel’s capital is West Jerusalem, but whether occupied East Jerusalem will be the capital of a Palestinian state.
Mr Trump left open that possibility by saying the administration was not taking a position on the final status of the holy city, “including the specific boundaries of the Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem, or the resolution of contested borders”.

That seemed to imply the Palestinian claim to East Jerusalem would still be on the table in any negotiations. But he didn’t spell that out, nor did he clearly state that the end goal was two states.

Instead, he said the US would support such a solution if agreed to by both sides: not the unequivocal endorsement the Palestinians were looking for. Ultimately he didn’t offer the Palestinians anything, and the speech came across as an endorsement of Israel.

The alternatives to a two-state solution. A peace process own goal. Mr Trump has claimed that recognising Jerusalem will advance the peace process.

But it is far more likely that he has sabotaged his own peace initiative. This will almost certainly embolden those on the Israeli right adamantly opposed to a Palestinian state and territorial concessions in Jerusalem.

And it will make it much harder for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to enter negotiations.

Trump administration officials indicated they would continue working on the peace plan and wait for the dust to settle – it’s not ready yet, so there’s time for the Palestinians to reject the process and then reconsider.

But Mr Trump has also plunged the US into the dispute over Jerusalem. That’s an uncomfortable, perhaps untenable, position for a mediator to hold. (BBC)

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