Israel has perhaps never organized such elaborate celebrations, not even after occupying the eastern, Arab, part of Jerusalem in 1967 and seizing control of the entire city. The celebratory mood among the Israelis for the move of the US embassy from Tel Aviv is off the scale. At the same time, anger and frustration are growing among the Palestinians about this decision, made in violation of international resolutions, together with the recognition by Donald Trump of Jerusalem as capital of Israel on Dec. 6.
Sunday is “Jerusalem Day,” according to the Jewish calendar—a perfect introduction, according to the Israeli ultranationalists, to May 14, the 70th anniversary of the proclamation of the State of Israel. On this occasion, the US envoy to the Middle East, Jared Kushner, his wife Ivanka Trump, US Ambassador David Friedman (a financier for the Israeli settlers movement), and hundreds of representatives of the US administration, Congress and other American institutions and organizations will all participate in the opening ceremony of the new US Embassy in Arnona, on the southern outskirts of Jerusalem. Joining them will be Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, ministers, parliamentarians and political personalities, all coming to celebrate what is being considered in Israel a “victory” of extraordinary importance.
Just a short distance away, Palestinians, many of whom will come from Galilee, will try to make their protest heard, even though the deployment of police forces will be enormous in all of Jerusalem. “We decided to hold the protest in the same place and at the same time as the Israeli celebrations,” said Mohammad Barakeh, head of the High Follow-Up Committee for Arab Citizens of Israel. “We intend to raise our voices against the US policy of support for the Israeli occupation and colonial settlements, which aims to eliminate any possibility of creating an independent and sovereign Palestinian state with the 1967 borders and with Jerusalem as its capital.”
Protest gatherings are announced for Monday in the West Bank, particularly in Ramallah. The most impressive demonstrations are expected in Gaza, where tomorrow and on Tuesday, May 15—the 70th anniversary of the Nakba—tens of thousands of Palestinians, some say more than 100,000, will arrive in the eastern part of Gaza, a few hundred meters away from the barriers of the border with Israel. The Israeli army is bringing in constant reinforcements of men and armored vehicles along the border with Gaza, and there is strong concern that snipers, in a repeat of what happened in recent weeks during the “Great March of Return,” will again open fire on demonstrators who approach or try to get past the fences. The bloody toll of over 50 deaths and thousands of injuries recorded up to now may yet rise dramatically. On Saturday, Israel bombed an alleged underground tunnel in northern Gaza, just hours after the closure of the Kerem Shalom trade crossing, damaged by Palestinians during the latest protests.
Protest marches against the move of the US embassy to Jerusalem are also expected in several Arab and Islamic countries. The US is aware that their Jerusalem move is exacerbating tensions in the Middle East, and CNN reported Saturday that, taking this into account, they are sending contingents of marines to protect the diplomatic missions in various countries in the region.
The European Union is reaffirming its opposition to the move of embassies to Jerusalem, but it has not been able to arrive at a common position for all member countries regarding Monday’s events. According to leaks, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Romania, allies of Israel, have blocked the adoption of a joint statement that reaffirmed the status of Jerusalem as an international city.
On the posters that have appeared these days on the streets of Jewish (western) Jerusalem, one particular exhortation occurs over and over: “Trump, make Israel great!” The American president is indeed pulling out all the stops, and making Netanyahu great most of all. The Israeli prime minister is enjoying a moment of unprecedented popularity, thanks to his hardline iron fist policy against Iran, Syria and the Palestinians, backed by the White House. The polls are showing strong growth for his party, Likud, and 69 percent of Israelis enthusiastically endorse his policies. For weeks now, no one has been writing or talking about the three judicial investigations into fraud and corruption in which he is involved.
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