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What you need to know for 12/17/2017

Palestinians vent their anger after Trump's Jerusalem declaration

Palestinians vent their anger after Trump's Jerusalem declaration

Israeli military says it is sending additional battalions to West Bank in response to protests
Palestinians vent their anger after Trump's Jerusalem declaration
The Israeli and American flags are projected on the wall of the Old City of Jerusalem on Dec. 6, 2017.
Photographer: Uriel Sinai/The New York Times

JERUSALEM — Palestinians clashed with Israeli forces in the West Bank and along the border with the Gaza Strip on Thursday, as widespread predictions of unrest were realized a day after President Donald Trump took the high-risk move of recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

The Israeli military said it was sending additional battalions to the West Bank in response to the protests, which took place at familiar flash points and followed a well-choreographed pattern at times of friction, and injuries were reported.

The Palestinian response appeared to be teetering between a limited wave of protests and a full-blown explosion of violence, as schools were closed, stores were shuttered and the public largely observed a general strike. The mood in the streets of downtown East Jerusalem, where there was a heavy presence of Israeli police, seemed tense and sullen.

In the Gaza Strip, Ismail Haniya, the leader of Hamas, the Islamic militant group, called for a new intifada, or uprising, and said its armed foot soldiers were on standby for instructions.

The Palestinians have waged two major uprisings since the late 1990s, leading to hundreds of deaths on both sides but ultimately doing little to advance their cause.

“Jerusalem has always been the source of victory and the beginning of revolutions and the starting point of uprisings,” Haniya said. “Trump will regret this decision.”

Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem, which upended long-standing U.S. policy and broke with international consensus, continued to draw condemnation from Arab and European leaders.

The U.S. president said that recognizing Jerusalem as the capital was “the right thing to do” because it acknowledged the reality of the situation in the city.

Critics have argued that unilaterally recognizing Israel’s claim to the city prejudged the outcome of negotiations for a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Palestinian aspirations for an independent state with East Jerusalem, which has holy sites sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims, as its capital.

Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, and other officials in the West Bank said the United States had disqualified itself from any mediating role. Abbas and the Palestinian officials added that they were weighing their options.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in Vienna that the United States was still committed to the peace process and that a two-state solution to resolve the conflict was still viable.

“All of Israel’s government offices are largely in Jerusalem already, so the U.S. is just recognizing the reality of that,” he said in response to a question while at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. “This does not in any way finalize the status of Jerusalem; that’s still left to the parties to discuss.”

But Federica Mogherini, the European Union’s top foreign policy official, warned that the decision would be damaging to the peace effort.

“President Trump’s announcement on Jerusalem has a very worrying potential impact,” she said. “It has a very fragile context and the announcement has the potential to send us backwards to even darker times than the ones we are already living in.”

As Israelis went about their business in Jerusalem on Thursday, there were few visible signs of celebration; for many, Trump had only affirmed a long-standing reality.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel hailed the announcement from Washington.

“President Trump has inscribed himself in the annals of our capital for all time,” he said at a conference at the Israeli Foreign Ministry. “His name will now be linked to the names of others in the context of the glorious history of Jerusalem and our people.”

Netanyahu said Israel was in contact with other countries to persuade them to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, too.

“It’s about time,” he said.

In cities across the West Bank, Palestinians responded to calls from minarets to protest. Hundreds of youths made their way toward a checkpoint on the edge of Ramallah, a frequent site of clashes. In Gaza, youths protested along the border fence, rallied in a central Gaza City park and burned tires in a refugee camp.

Salwa Helis, 32, took a group of orphans she teaches to the demonstration in the park, where they held Palestinian flags and banners against the backdrop of a large poster of Jerusalem, a city that is out of reach for most Gazans.

“I can’t carry a weapon to shoot or launch rockets at Israelis,” she said. “That’s why I am here protesting against Trump’s resolution by shouting solidarity slogans for Jerusalem as the eternal capital of Palestine.”

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