Protests focus on recent State Department declaration that Israeli settlements are not necessarily illegal
Thousands of Palestinians took to the streets of major West Bank cities on Tuesday in a “Day of Rage” aimed at protesting some of the Middle Eastern policies of the United States.
Last week, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced a shift in the US view on the legality of Israeli settlements, moving away from a position drafted in 1978 saying they were “inconsistent with international law.”
The move sent deep anger through the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The Fatah movement and other PLO factions called for demonstrations that would also be aimed at the “Deal of the Century,” the Trump Administration’s plan for Israeli-Palestinian peace.
Tuesday’s protests took place in such cities as Ramallah, Nablus and Hebron. In Manara Square in central Ramallah, the seat of power of the Palestinian Authority, hundreds raised Palestinian flags and chanted slogans.
The Palestinian cabinet called on all institutions to participate and ordered the Education Ministry to close schools early to allow students to take part.
Protesters also noted the death of a security prisoner in an Israeli jail on Tuesday morning. The prisoner died of cancer.
With the Israeli army having brought in troop reinforcements, dozens of Palestinians clashed with soldiers at the Beit El checkpoint at the western entrance to Ramallah, throwing stones and burning tires. Troops used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the crowds. Several injuries were reported.
“We are here to clash with Israeli soldiers and protest against the Trump [Administration’s] declaration calling Israeli settlements legal,” a protester, whose face was covered with a traditional Palestinian keffiyeh, told The Media Line.
PA Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh took part in the Manara Square demonstration.
“We gather here today to totally reject the American decision concerning the legality of Israeli settlements in our land,” he said. “This does not give legitimacy whatsoever to the illegal settlements, which have been built to change the demographic character of Palestinian territory.”
Palestinian leaders have boycotted the Trump Administration since its December 2017 decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, which resulted in the move of the US Embassy to the city. Officials also accuse the White House of being a “dishonest broker” in the conflict.
Mahmoud Al-Aloul, deputy head of Fatah, also spoke, stating that the protest was the first step toward defeating the Israeli occupation.
Gaza-based political analyst Talal Oakal told The Media Line by phone: “The protests against the Trump declaration are nothing more than to let the people show their position on US policy. It’s not going to change [Washington’s] position on anything.”
Oakal, a critic of the PA, added: “You [the PA] signed many agreements with the US. If you want to show the US you are angry, you should opt out of these agreements.”
Facebook posts and chats were full of similar sentiments toward the PA. One said: “Why do you need people to feel rage? You have agreements with the US. Do not tell us when to be angry just to support your positions.”
Palestinians are calling for an independent state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with East Jerusalem as the capital.