Some will point out that the number of participants in the demonstrations is not extraordinary. That is true. Nonetheless, Palestinian protests are continuing against the recognition by Donald Trump of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel a week ago.
In the refugee camp of Arroub, at the University of Tulkarem, in Bethlehem, in Ramallah, and elsewhere in the West Bank on Tuesday, dozens of Palestinian youths throwing stones faced down Israeli soldiers while they were filing in formation through urban centers. There were at least 10 injured protesters.
Hundreds of Palestinians from Israel organized a sit-in in Tel Aviv, in front of the U.S. embassy that Trump intends to move to Jerusalem. The protests are being played down in the Israeli media, which these days mostly covers domestic policy. Gaza is the only exception, where the tense situation, between Israeli air raids and bombardments and the launching of eight Palestinian rockets in only a week (no one knows by whom), is slipping toward disaster.
Tuesday, two armed Palestinians on a motorbike were killed in Beit Lahiya in unclear circumstances. At first, those of Gaza had denounced this as an Israeli drone attack. Then, the Islamic Jihad issued a statement to clarify that two of its men had died on a ”mission.” Apparently, the two were killed by the accidental explosion of the bomb they were carrying.
Unlike the newspapers, the Israeli political and military authorities are not underestimating the developments of the Palestinian protests in the slightest. This is confirmed by their decision to place Marwan Barghouti, the secretary of the Fatah party in the West Bank who has been in prison in Israel for 15 years, in solitary confinement. Barghouti, 58, is known as the commander of the Second Intifada (2000-2005), and his charisma has remained intact despite the long prison sentence. The Palestinians are saying that Israel is afraid that Barghouti may send out new calls to revolt.
“My father was put in solitary confinement for the message he sent to the Palestinians on the occasion of the 13th anniversary of the first Intifada [Dec. 8],” his son, Qasam Barghouti, told us Tuesday. “In that message, he called on the people to reject Trump’s declaration and start a peaceful Intifada of the people, like that which began in 1987.”
In his message, Marwan Barghouti urged the Palestinians to return to full national unity. However, the reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas still remains a long way off. Dec. 10 marked the missing of another crucial deadline set by both parties to complete the transfer of control over Gaza from Hamas to the National Authority government of Mahmoud Abbas, in which Fatah plays the crucial role. This transfer of power has not occurred because to the non-payment of public sector wages in Gaza, something undertaken in recent years by the Hamas executive. The PNA government has not paid the salaries into the current accounts of the employees in response to the decision by the Islamic movement not to transfer the taxes collected in Gaza to the coffers of the PNA. The Islamists defended their decision, claiming that they didn’t have reassurance from Ramallah that the funds would be used for paying the public employees in Gaza.
Now, the status of Jerusalem after Donald Trump’s proclamation will be at the center of the talks between the heads of state and government and the senior political representatives of 57 Muslim countries, expected in Istanbul for the extraordinary summit of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), which represents the 1.6 billion Muslims in the world. Presiding over the talks is the Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who in recent days has been one of the toughest against Trump and Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu, to the point of calling Israel ”a terrorist state … that kills children.”
Beside Mahmoud Abbas, others expected in Istanbul are King Abdullah II of Jordan and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. The members of the OIC come to the summit each with their own position. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said it appeared that some Arab countries are ”very timid of the United States,” because Trump ”scares them” — referring, presumably, to Saudi Arabia and the other oil monarchies in the Gulf, which are engaged in a slow but steady approach towards Israel as an anti-Iranian move.
In the meantime, there is mystery surrounding the trilateral summit between Egyptian president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, King Abdullah II and Abbas, held three days ago in Cairo. Not much is known about this meeting, although it was presented as a renewed alliance between the three leaders. The rumors are saying that el-Sisi and Abdullah ”suggested” that Abbas should tone down his polemic against Trump, and that Egypt and Jordan do not intend to damage their relations with Washington.