Palestinians Fear Consequences Of U.S. Embassy Move To Jerusalem
After Washington confirms opening date of May 14, Palestinians fear outbreak of violence, political isolation and economic downturn
Palestinians responded with grave concern to the announcement that the U.S. Embassy would open in Jerusalem on May 14, the seventieth anniversary of Israel’s independence. The embassy, to be based in a refurbished American consular facility in Jerusalem’s Arnona neighborhood, will at first operate in a limited capacity, likely housing only the ambassador and a few others until a larger property can be acquired or built.
“The goal is to open a small footprint in May, and, over time, open a fuller embassy by the end of 2019,” Steven Goldstein, the U.S. Under-secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs explained.
Tensions have been high in the West Bank and Gaza Strip since U.S. President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December. The Palestinian Authority reacted with fury to the White House declaration and has repeatedly called for “days of rage” to protest the decision. Since then, clashes have regularly erupted between Palestinians and Israeli security forces, leaving hundreds injured.
“I’m very scared of the escalation, it will create problems and tension,” Rola Khair, a Palestinian activist, told The Media Line. “We can’t do anything to change the decision, we are losing our people for nothing.”
Similarly, Leen Abdrabuu, a resident of east Jerusalem, stated to The Media Line that “clashing with the IDF [Israeli army] will not influence or change the American move regarding Jerusalem.” She therefore urged world leaders to pressure President Trump to reverse his decision.
To this end, PA President Mahmoud Abbas has boycotted U.S. officials while touring the globe to lobby foreign governments to devise a new multi-lateral mechanism that would effectively sideline the Americans from the negotiating process with Israel. In an address last week to the Security Council, Abbas called for “an international peace conference by the middle of 2018 that will accept the State of Palestine as a full UN member.”
According to Nabeel Amro, a former Palestinian information minister, “once Trump announced the embassy move, Israel started speaking about ‘Greater Jerusalem,'” a reference to the Israeli government’s insistence that the holy city remain undivided and under its control even in the event of a future peace agreement with the Palestinians.
Amro contended to The Media Line that “the American decision made the situation way too complicated and difficult,” thereby effectively ending the peace process.
Mahmoud Al-Majdalani, a member of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization, stressed that the initiative challenges not only Palestinian, Arab and Muslim sensibilities but also constitutes a violation of international law. “The American administration is mistaken if they think such a move will pass,” he told The Media Line. “They are underestimating the Palestinian position.”
Al-Majdalani warned that the situation in the West Bank, in general, and Jerusalem, in particular, could “explode” at any moment. “Trump could have saved us from this if he declared the eastern part of Jerusalem as Palestine’s capital, but apparently there are attempts of manipulation by the U.S [administration] and its mediators in the Middle East.”
Some Palestinians fear more than just the outbreak of violence, believing that Washington’s actions will have broader societal impacts. “It will kill peace in the area and the chaos following the move will effect business in Palestine,” Shadi Atshan, CEO of Leaders, a non-profit organization that supports entrepreneurship in the West Bank, told The Media Line. “No one can run a business without any stability in the market,” he noted.
By contrast, a number of Palestinians privately told The Media Line that they do not object to the move so long as it does not prevent the eventual formation of a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders with east Jerusalem as its capital.