Donald Trump has run roughshod over international law and set fire to the Middle East with his recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. And after he did all that, his second-in-command, Mike Pence, will visit the Wailing Wall next week, in the eastern (Arab, occupied) sector of the city, not on an official visit but on a “private” one. After they threw the stone, they’re trying to keep their head down.
These rulers of the world don’t have even a shred of consistency. On Monday, Pence also postponed his arrival in Jerusalem because of the protests triggered by Trump’s proclamation, giving the U.S. Senate’s vote on tax reform as the official reason. Meanwhile, the fire is spreading more and more. The ”day of rage” declared by the Palestinians on Friday, the day of Islamic prayers, ended with three Palestinians killed by Israeli soldiers, two in Gaza and one in the West Bank.
A fourth Palestinian, Mohammed Aql, was killed in al Baloua, on the eastern outskirts of Ramallah. After he stabbed and wounded an official of the Israeli Border Guard in the shoulder, the other soldiers shot him three times in cold blood as he was backing away. The Palestinians are describing it as a cold-blooded execution, and a video showing the events has gone viral. The Israelis, for their part, say Aql was wearing an explosive belt (clearly visible in photographs published by many websites), but last night it was still unclear if it was real or fake.
Gaza is once again paying the highest price in blood. Two Palestinians were killed there in recent days, shot by soldiers along the border between Israel and Gaza. Two other Palestinians were killed in the air raids ordered by Israel after the firing of Palestinian rockets. On Friday, Ibrahim Abu Thuraya, 29, and Yusef Sukkar, 32, were shot in the head and killed when thousands of protesters approached the border barriers. Many were injured — 164, according to figures provided by the Palestinian Ministry of Health. Abu Thuraya was disabled, having lost his legs after a past Israeli bombardment, and was confined to a wheelchair. There were violent clashes in the West Bank as well, where, during a protest in Anata, Basel Ibrahim was killed by shots fired by soldiers.
There were protests on the outskirts of Nablus and in many other villages and towns in the West Bank, more than have been seen in years. While many are insisting that there won’t be a new Palestinian Intifada, the situation indicates that Trump’s unilateral move on Israel has set off a mostly spontaneous popular reaction, with minimal involvement by the traditional parties and political movements. The President of the National Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, has decided only to repress this popular anger to a limited extent, while knowing that this low intensity revolt could snowball and become an unstoppable avalanche.
Larger and larger spontaneous protests have also been seen in East Jerusalem. On Friday, the Israeli police did not place limits on the access of Palestinians to the Esplanade of the al-Aqsa mosque, but cordoned off and reinforced the whole area of the Damascus Gate, the main entrance to the old city. Then, once the noon prayers had ended, they didn’t use violence and beatings to disperse the groups of Palestinians chanting about ”Arab Jerusalem” and pressing on the barricades.
The most serious incidents occurred once again in the old town, in front of the Fourth Station on the Via Dolorosa. As soon as the procession that left the Temple Mount began to press on the positions of the police, they intervened with shoves and blows against the demonstrators. They also didn’t show themselves to be “in a good mood” with the journalists who were present. The scenes of violence were repeated a few minutes later at the Damascus Gate, following the temporary closure of this exit from the old town on orders by the police. As of last night, the number of Palestinians who were wounded in East Jerusalem was yet unknown. Some police officers went away with bruises as well.
The diplomatic scene remains in turmoil as well. Turkey, a country that has been one of the most critical of Trump’s proclamation, said it would ask the United Nations to annul the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital announced by the White House. They added that in case this measure fails, they would go directly to the General Assembly. The Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, also announced steps aimed toward the international recognition of the Palestinian state. Ankara, like Lebanon, is now saying it wants to open an embassy in East Jerusalem — the capital of Palestine.