Ahead of Trump’s Jerusalem speech, Fatah says protests should be peaceful
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Ahead of Trump’s Jerusalem speech, Fatah says protests should be peaceful

Palestinians call for UN Security Council to condemn Trump; Abbas to deliver televised statement directly after US president finishes his remarks

Dov Lieber is The Times of Israel's Arab affairs correspondent.

Palestinian protesters burn the US and Israeli flags in Gaza City on December 6, 2017, ahead of US President Donald Trump's speech regarding Jerusalem. (AFP PHOTO / MAHMUD HAMS)
Palestinian protesters burn the US and Israeli flags in Gaza City on December 6, 2017, ahead of US President Donald Trump's speech regarding Jerusalem. (AFP PHOTO / MAHMUD HAMS)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party on Wednesday called for nonviolent protests and diplomatic action at the UN in the face of US President Donald Trump’s expected announcement recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and possible plan to move the US Embassy there from Tel Aviv.

Any protests expressing Palestinian anger over the measure should be done “in a peaceful and an unarmed, sustainable way, so that would lead to serving the Palestinian national cause in this regard,” Fatah spokesperson Nasser al-Kidwa told reporters in Ramallah.

Fatah has yet to organize protests at the national level. In a statement released on Monday, Fatah told its cadres to be prepared for updates following Trump’s speech.

Al-Kidwa also said Palestinian efforts would focus on the international arena. “There should be a complaint filed to the Security Council on the dangerous violations committed by the United States in terms of Security Council resolutions,”  he said.

He called for a resolution that would reject the change in the status quo of the city, demand the US walk back the announcement, and require the US to comply with relevant Security Council resolutions.

The US can veto any Security Council resolutions.

“Any position that would recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, any position that would move an embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, whether immediately or in a while because of logistical consideration — any position of this kind is absolutely unacceptable,” he added, referencing statements by White Hosue officials that Trump might sign a waiver delaying the immediate transfer of the embassy to Jerusalem for logistical and security reasons.

Deputy UN-Arab League envoy to Syria, Nasser al-Kidwa (photo credit: AP)
Nasser al-Kidwa in 2012 (photo credit: AP)

The Palestinians have said that should the US go through with moving the embassy or declaring Jerusalem the capital of Israel, then contacts with Washington in the context of the peace process would be terminated.

Abbas is slated to give a televised speech just after Trump finishes his own Wednesday, and will respond to the US president’s statements, the official PA news site Wafa reported.

Israel calls Jerusalem its undivided capital, but the international community has refrained from recognizing it as such pending final status negotiations with the Palestinians, who seek the eastern half of the city as their own seat of power in a future state.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (L) speaks with EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini during a press conference following their meeting at the European Commission in Brussels on March 27, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / EMMANUEL DUNAND

In a phone call with Abbas, EU diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini reiterated the European Union’s commitment to a two-state solution and its stance that the status of Jerusalem should be settled by negotiations.

“Federica Mogherini called for restraint in any reaction to the expected announcement and welcomed the commitment by President Abbas to call for any demonstrations to remain peaceful,” an EU statement said.

Trump’s imminent announcement has sparked a flurry of calls for protests in Palestinian territories as well as abroad.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said Abbas agreed with him on a united Palestinian opposition to the possible move of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

“We agreed that the Palestinian masses, at home or abroad, today and every day onward, will take to the streets to express their anger and their hold on Jerusalem, the capital of the state of Palestine,” Haniyeh said in an interview on Al Jazeera.

Haniyeh said Abbas made the agreement during phone calls several days ago.

Fatah’s youth wing on Tuesday said “all options [are] open for defending Jerusalem.”

Palestinian protesters prepare to burn a picture of US President Donald Trump in the southern Gaza Strip town of Rafah on December 6, 2017, ahead of US President Donald Trump’s expected announcement recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. (AFP PHOTO / SAID KHATIB)

In a statement on Tuesday, the Hamas terrorist group called for Palestinians to “make Friday a day of rage against the occupation, rejecting moving the American embassy to Jerusalem and declaring it the capital of the Zionist entity.”

That statement, along with others by Palestinian groups and on social media, raised concerns among Israeli security services of large-scale riots in the West Bank and East Jerusalem or terror attacks against Israeli civilians and troops, as have happened in the past in the wake of perceived changes to the status of Jerusalem.

While security forces were preparing for the possibility of such violence, as of Wednesday afternoon that did not include dramatic moves like mass troop call-ups or the sending of significant reinforcements to West Bank units.

Palestinian protesters burn pictures of US President Donald Trump at Bethlehem’s Manger Square on December 5, 2017. (AFP Photo/Musa Al Shaer)

The US State Department on Tuesday ordered government employees to avoid Jerusalem’s Old City and the West Bank until further notice in anticipation of an outbreak of Palestinian violence.

Jerusalem’s Old City includes the holiest ground in Judaism. It is also home to Islam’s third-holiest shrine and major Christian sites, and is the combustible center of the Israeli-Arab conflict.

Judah Ari Gross, AFP and Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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