‘Declaration of war’: Trump’s Jerusalem decision lights Middle East powder keg
Israel is bracing for demonstrations in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem ahead of US President Donald Trump’s expected plan to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and to recognize Jerusalem as the Jewish state’s capital.
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) are preparing for violence after Hamas called for a “day of rage” in response to Trump’s controversial decision. The main demonstration is planned for Thursday afternoon at al-Manara Square in Ramallah. People from across the West Bank are expected to participate.
On Wednesday, a large demonstration is scheduled to take place in Jenin. Israeli police and military are also preparing for demonstrations near the American embassy in Tel Aviv. Thousands of Israeli law enforcers are expected to be on duty in Jerusalem on Friday.
Hamas political leader Ismail Haniyeh vowed that Palestinians would use all available options to “protect our land and our holy sites,” according to media reports.
The Palestinian Islamist political organization and militant group urged “the youth and the Palestinian resistance in the West Bank” to “respond with all means available to the US decision that harms our Jerusalem. Jerusalem is a red line and the resistance will not allow any desecration of it.”
Foreign governments are already anticipating violence. The German Foreign Ministry updated its travel advice for Israel and the Palestinian territories on Wednesday, warning that “from December 6, 2017, there may be demonstrations in Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Violent clashes cannot be ruled out." The US State Department also issued a travel warning, urging government employees and their families not to visit Jerusalem's Old City or the West Bank.
Palestine’s envoy to the UK said on Wednesday that Trump’s expected decision would be a declaration of war “against 1.5 billion Muslims (and) hundreds of millions of Christians that are not going to accept the holy shrines to be totally under the hegemony of Israel."
On Tuesday, Palestinian Christians in Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus, were spotted burning photographs of Donald Trump and holding signs reading “Move the embassy to your country, not ours,” and “Jerusalem, Palestine's heart, is not up to negotiations.”
On the same day, Trump told the leader of the Palestinian Authority during a phone call that he intends to move the US Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The planned move has been strongly condemned by the international community.
During a joint press conference with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Tuesday, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini warned the US against moving the embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, saying it could jeopardize the peace process in the region.
The Council of the League of Arab States released a statement calling the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital an act of “open aggression” against “the rights of the Palestinian people and all Muslims and Christians.”
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday that US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital would be a “red line” for Muslims and “a big blow to the conscience of humanity.” The leader of NATO ally Turkey warned that the US taking such a step would force Ankara to sever diplomatic ties with the Jewish state.
Erdogan has called for an emergency summit of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation on December 13 to discuss the possibility of Jerusalem becoming Israel’s capital.
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has also blasted Washington's decision to relocate the US embassy to Jerusalem as a display of incompetence.
"That they claim they want to announce Quds as the capital of occupied Palestine is because of their incompetence and failure," Khamenei said, using the Arabic name for Jerusalem.
The Syrian government also weighed in on the planned move. "[The move] is the culmination of the crime of usurping Palestine and displacing the Palestinian people," a Foreign Ministry official told state news agency SANA.