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Middle East

Hamas calls for new Palestinian uprising against Israel as US allies slam Trump’s Jerusalem move

Malaysia’s PM says Muslims everywhere should speak out in opposition

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 07 December, 2017, 12:52pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 07 December, 2017, 11:36pm

US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital sparked swift retaliation with Palestinian protests, clashes and a call for a new uprising on Thursday as fears grew of fresh bloodshed across the region.

In a speech in Gaza City, Hamas leader Ismail Haniya demanded a new intifada, while protests were held in West Bank cities including Ramallah, Hebron and Nablus. Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas said plainly that Trump had disqualified the United States from its traditional role as peace broker in the Middle East conflict.

Amid the uncertainty over the fallout, the Israeli military deployed hundreds more troops to the occupied West Bank as Palestinian schools and shops closed for three “days of rage” over Trump’s decision.

Several hundred protesters were dispersed at a checkpoint at the entrance to Ramallah, while the Palestinian Red Crescent reported dozens wounded from tear gas, rubber bullets and live fire in the West Bank. Three Palestinians were wounded east of the city of Khan Yunis in the Gaza Strip, medical sources and witnesses said.

Trump declares Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, raising fears of unrest

Trump’s defiant move ends seven decades of US ambiguity on the status of Jerusalem, which is claimed by both Israelis and Palestinians. He said it marks the start of a “new approach” to solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“It is time to officially recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel,” he said in a speech from the White House on Wednesday, urging calm and “the voices of tolerance to prevail over the purveyors of hate”.

Moving the American embassy in Israel to Jerusalem makes good on a campaign promise not just of Trump’s, but of his predecessors. Past leaders, from Bill Clinton to George Bush, all made the same pledge to US evangelical Christian and right-wing Jewish voters, as well as donors, but quickly reneged.

Trump insisted the move did not prejudge final peace talks, it only reflected the reality that west Jerusalem is and will continue to be part of Israel under any settlement.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lavished praise on Trump, saying his name would now be associated with Jerusalem’s long history and urging other countries to follow his lead.

However, the US leader’s willingness to part with international consensus on such a sensitive issue continued to attract urgent warnings from around the world.

In ally Malaysia, the response went beyond criticism, with Prime Minister Najib Razak calling on Muslims everywhere to oppose the move.

“I call on all Muslims across the world to let your voices be heard, make it clear that we strongly oppose any recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital for all time,” Najib said.

A large protest is planned in front of the US embassy in Kuala Lumpur on Friday. The diplomatic office warned the crowd would be in the thousands, and the police presence would be significantly increased.

Retno Marsudi, foreign minister of Indonesia – the world’s most populous Muslim country – said: “Democracy means respecting the international law, [and] the recognition does not respect various UN Security Council resolutions.”

The Singaporean government said it “reaffirms its longstanding and consistent support for a two-state solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and cautioned that “any premature and unilateral action to alter the status of Jerusalem will impede progress” toward a peaceful resolution of the problem. Japan voiced concern about repercussions, but shied away from criticising the decision.

Britain described the move as “unhelpful” and France called it “regrettable”. Germany said it simply “does not support” Trump’s decision.

The international community does not recognise the ancient city as Israel’s capital, insisting the issue can only be resolved in negotiations. Israel seized Arab East Jerusalem in the six day war of 1967 and later annexed it in a move never recognised by the international community. The Palestinians want the eastern sector as the capital of their future state.

Several peace plans have failed in past decades over the issue of how to divide sovereignty or oversee holy sites in Jerusalem.

Central to those peace efforts has been the Middle East Quartet – made up of the European Union, the United States, the United Nations and Russia.

The EU’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini feared Trump’s move would take the Middle East region “backwards to even darker times”.

Mogherini pledged to reinvigorate diplomacy with its quartet partners, Jordan and others to ensure Palestinians have a capital in Jerusalem. She said she would meet Jordan’s foreign minister on Friday and would discuss Jerusalem with Netanyahu in Brussels on Monday.

“The European Union will engage even more with the parties and with our regional and international partners.

“We remain convinced that the role of the United States … is crucial,” she said.

Associated Press, Reuters, Agence France-Presse, The Washington Post