Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah faction on Saturday called for “angry” demonstrations next week to protest against a visit to Jerusalem by US Vice President Mike Pence after Washington said it would recognize the holy city as Israel’s capital.
“We call for angry protests at the entrances to Jerusalem and in its Old City to coincide with the visit on Wednesday of US Vice President Mike Pence and to protest against Trump’s decision,” Fatah said in a statement.
Breaking with decades of US policy, President Donald Trump also said on December 6 that he would move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. And, in a move that further angered the Palestinians, a White House official said Friday that the US could not “envision any situation” under which the Western Wall would not be part of Israel.
The moves were welcomed by Israel but have stirred widespread condemnation and sparked angry protests across Arab and Muslim countries, as well as deadly clashes in the West Bank and Gaza. Trump stressed that the city’s borders should be agreed upon between the sides under a peace deal, and that access to holy sites must not be impeded.
The December 6 Jerusalem declaration by Trump also prompted Abbas to cancel a meeting with Pence, who arrives Wednesday in Jerusalem, and warn that Washington no longer had a role to play in the Palestinian-Israeli peace process.
Ahead of Pence’s visit, a senior Trump administration official said Friday that the White House “envisions” the Western Wall will remain part of Israel under any accord with the Palestinians.
Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a senior adviser to Abbas, reacted indignantly to the comments.
“We will not accept any changes on the borders of East Jerusalem, which was occupied in 1967,” Abu Rudeineh told The Associated Press. “This statement proves once again that this American administration is outside the peace process.”
“The continuation of this American policy, whether through the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, or by moving the American embassy, or other such statements, by which the United States decides unilaterally on the issues of the final status negotiations, are a violation of international law and strengthen the Israeli occupation,” he said. “For us, this is unacceptable. We totally reject it. And we totally denounce it.”
Mahmoud al-Aloul, Abbas’ deputy in Fatah, also slammed the White House official’s comment, saying they would step up protests.
“We have adopted a policy of popular resistance and now we will raise the level of resistance,” he was quoted as saying by Ynet’s news site. “The occupation is responding to the resistance with unprecedented violence toward the [protesting] youths.”
The Western Wall, part of the retaining walls of the Second Temple compound, is the closest point of prayer for Jews to the site of the Temple itself, and thus the Jewish people’s holiest place of prayer. It was captured, along with the rest of the Old City and East Jerusalem, from Jordan in the 1967 Six Day War, and annexed by Israel as part of its united capital — a move not recognized internationally.
Pence, who is set to go to the Western Wall, will likely visit the holy site without accompanying Israeli officials, just as Trump did in May. Trump, who became the first ever serving president to go to the Wall, said that part of his trip to Israel was a private visit.
The status of Jerusalem is one of the most controversial issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Israel sees the whole of Jerusalem as its undivided capital. The Palestinians view East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.
The call to protest came as thousands of Palestinians took part in funerals for two of four men killed Friday in clashes with Israeli forces during violent protests in the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip. One of the men was fatally shot after stabbing an Israeli border police officer near Ramallah.
Mourners chanted anti-Trump slogans and masked men fired into the air during one of the ceremonies in the village of Beit Ula, located between Jerusalem and the West Bank.
Funerals were also held for the two other Palestinians killed by Israeli forces in Gaza, where Hamas, the terror group that rules the enclave, had on Friday called for a “day of rage.”
One of those killed was Ibrahim Abu Thurayeh, a Palestinian who AFP reported lost his legs in an Israeli attack a decade ago, and who, with his wheelchair, was a regular feature at protests along Gaza’s border with Israel.
The Israeli army has said it fired selectively on chief instigators during “extremely violent riots” along the border on Friday.
Another Palestinian was killed in clashes in Anata on the northeast outskirts of Jerusalem, the PA health ministry said, naming him as Bassel Ibrahim, 24. It said he had been shot.