With U.S. President Donald Trump set to recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital on Wednesday—a move denounced by the Palestinian envoy to Britain as "declaration of war" against Muslims—thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of Gaza and the West Bank overnight to burn American flags and images of Trump as part of "three days of rage" declared by the occupied territories' leaders.
"The peace process is finished. There is no way that there can be talks with the Americans."
—Hanan Ashrawi, Palestinian officialThe protests came as the international community fiercely condemned Trump's expected announcement, which will also reportedly include an order for the State Department to begin constructing a new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem.
"The peace process is finished," Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi said in response to Trump's plans. "There is no way that there can be talks with the Americans."
Ashrawi's reaction was echoed by other Palestinian officials, leaders of Muslim-majority nations, and American commentators who argued that Trump's "dangerous" move would represent the final death blow to the peace process—which, as some argued, the U.S. was never genuinely committed to in the first place.
According to Phyllis Bennis, director of the New Internationalism Project at the Institute for Policy Studies, numerous risks and dangers will result from Trump's decision, but ending "the role of the United States as an honest broker in sponsoring peace talks" is not one of them. The reason, she explains, is "because the U.S. never was an honest broker in Israel-Palestinian talks. It was always, as at least one longtime U.S. negotiator admitted, playing the role of Israel's lawyer. That hasn't changed either. There are no negotiations underway to be threatened with cancellation."
Bennis went on to add that Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel will have dramatic and deadly ramifications across the region, but the biggest price will be paid "as always by the Palestinians, who have been sold out by U.S. support for Israeli occupation and apartheid for more than 70 years."
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader, said in a speech to Iranian officials on Wednesday that the U.S. announcement to make "Jerusalem...the capital of occupied Palestine is because of their incompetence and failure. The issue of Palestine today is at the top of the political issues for Muslims and everyone is obligated to work and struggle for the freedom and salvation of the people of Palestine."
Photos and videos posted to social media Tuesday night and early Wednesday offered a glimpse of the outrage that is expected to intensify as Trump's official announcement nears.
"People here compared the protests to a small ball of fire that would roll and turn into a much larger ball later on," said Al Jazeera's Bernard Smith, reporting from Gaza. "So there is real concern here that this announcement could spark much larger protests. The move by the U.S. seems to have further unified the Palestinians. Hamas and the smaller factions in Gaza have given their full support to Mahmoud Abbas' Fattah movement in their opposition to the U.S. move."
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