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Palestinians distrust their leadership, Arab allies after Jerusalem move Open in fullscreen

Ylenia Gostoli

Palestinians distrust their leadership, Arab allies after Jerusalem move

Trump's announcement has further lowered Palestinians' faith in peace negotiations [Getty]

Date of publication: 14 December, 2017

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In-depth: Palestinian protesters angry at Trump's Jerusalem decision tell The New Arab they have little trust in their leadership and Arab allies.
Wednesday marked a week since protests began in the occupied Palestinian territories against Trump's speech on December 6 in which he announced the US recognises Jerusalem as Israel's capital and intends to move its embassy there from Tel Aviv.

The decision sparked widespread protests across the Arab world and in the occupied Palestinian territories.

In the West Bank and East Jerusalem, protests have so far failed to draw mass participation. However, limited clashes at checkpoints and other friction areas with the Israeli army have been taking place on an almost daily basis.

In Gaza, two protesters have been killed since, while two civilians died in Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip, after rockets were fired into Israel.

The Fatah movement, which dominates the Palestinian Authority, called for fresh protests across the West Bank and Gaza to coincide with an emergency summit of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Istanbul, Turkey, on Wednesday. 

"We will go to the Security Council to annul the announcement of US President Donald Trump recognition in Jerusalem as the capital of Israel," Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas stated on Wednesday, adding that the Palestinian leadership intends to address the UN security council and ask for full UN membership.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas [Getty]

Abbas also reiterated Palestinians no longer consider the US an "honest broker" of the peace process.

"This is nothing more or less than a recognition of reality," Trump had said during his announcement at the White House last week.

Israel claims Jerusalem as its "united capital" and it is the seat of its government. UN resolutions and the international community do no recognise Israel's unilateral annexation, and no state has its embassy there.

For Palestinians, who claim the eastern part as the capital of their future state, the move amounts to a de-facto legitimisation of Israel's annexation.

The status of Jerusalem is one of the thorniest points in the conflict. It was left unresolved in the interim Oslo Accords signed in 1993 and 1995, and its fate was to be determined in peace negotiations, which have been stalled for years.

We need other countries to stand with us, to say no. If we stand for ourselves, just alone, this is not going to help.

Dead end

Among the roughly 300 protesters gathered in Ramallah's city centre and at a nearby Israeli military checkpoint on Wednesday, there was a strong feeling Palestinians have arrived at a dead end.

"For the past week, I thought so many things will happen. But I'm disappointed. I feel like anything we do is pointless," said Fatimah Tayeh, 24, a government employee and a journalist.

"We need other countries to stand with us, to say no. If we stand for ourselves, just alone, this is not going to help. I think people feel helpless," she added.

After speeches in Ramallah's main square, protesters made their way to the DCO checkpoint near the settlement of Beit El.

A small group of protesters waved Palestinian flags and chanted as the dark grey smoke of a burning tyre rose up between them and Israeli forces stationed about 300 metres away and some youth threw stones at the forces.

It wasn't long before tear gas rained on the group and sent it running for cover behind nearby buildings and a gas station, where workers continued pumping petrol into cars as traffic kept coming through one of the main arteries out of the city. Protesters soon returned to their position.

Attorneys from the Palestinian Bar Association were also present at the protest, easily identifiable by their black robes.

"International law is clear. You can use whatever means to move an occupying power from your land," Rami (*not his real name) told The New Arab. "Peace is the goal, but what is the way to achieve the peace? It's clear that this [peace] process doesn't work," he added before the group was once again sent running by a fresh round of tear gas and sound bombs, cutting the conversation off.

Faith in negotiations

According to a poll published on Tuesday by the Palestinian Centre for Policy and Survey Research and conducted over the past week, Trump's announcement has further lowered faith in negotiations.

It found that only 27 percent of Palestinians believe negotiations are the most effective way of establishing a Palestinian state, while the largest percentage (44 percent) believes it is armed struggle - up from 35 percent three months ago.

The poll, which has a margin of error of three percentage points, also highlighted that an unprecedented 70 percent of Palestinians want Abbas to resign, and only 23 percent believes the Palestinian issue is a priority for the Arab world. The vast majority do not trust the US' main Arab allies, particularly the role of Saudi Arabia.

They've been talking a lot, Arabs, but in reality there is nothing. Just words.

Leaders at the OIC summit on Wednesday called on all countries to "recognise the State of Palestine and East Jerusalem as its occupied capital." The 57-member group also reiterated its commitment to a two-state solution.

"We demand the whole world, not only [the OIC leaders] move against this decision (...) which violates the historic rights of Palestinians," another lawyer, Mohannad Karaja, told The New Arab at the protest.

"We hope that more [Palestinians] will join later and it's the role of unions and movements like journalists and lawyers to mobilise with other unions," he added.

"They've been talking a lot, Arabs, but in reality there is nothing. Just words," Fatimah, who like many West Bank Palestinians, has never been to able to obtain a permit from the Israeli authorities to visit Jerusalem, told The New Arab.

Saher Nassan, a 20-year-old law student at Al-Quds university, puts the low turnout down to "the universities and the parties in Palestine not playing their role in uniting people against this violation. I don't know why. People are afraid, of the soldiers and of the parties," he said.

Israelis infiltrated a Palestinian protest [Anadolu] 

Minutes later, shots were heard and the crowd ran back into the petrol station in a convulsed panic, screaming "mustarabeen, mustarabeen!" the name used to designate Israeli undercover forces trained to act and look like protesters.

They'd appeared among the crowd, firing their pistols into the air and arresting five of the protesters, according to local journalists.

Clashes also took place in other cities across the West Bank, including Bethlehem, Hebron and Qalqiliya. The Palestinian Red Crescent Society told The New Arab a total of 252 were injured, including 186 by tear gas and seven by live ammunition, including one in Ramallah, two in the village of Beit Ummar and one in the city of Tulkarem.

Ylenia Gostoli is an independent journalist based in Jerusalem. Her work was shortlisted for the Anna Lindh Mediterranean Journalist Award in 2014. 

Follow her on Twitter @YleniaGostoli

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