The announcement by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on 23 February that the US will move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in May, which coincides with the anniversary of the Nakba, fanned the rage further of Palestinian and Arab masses.
Palestinians assert that Trump’s administration has become a hurdle to peace and its latest decision is a “provocation” that threatens the identity and existence of Palestinians, and is a direct and intended offense to the Arab nation.
They believe any unilateral action that does not abide by international law will defeat any efforts to reach a settlement in the region, create a negative and harmful atmosphere and prevent peace.
The Arab League said that relocating the embassy on the anniversary of the Nakba is another wrong decision that will extinguish the last hopes for peace and coexistence between the Palestinians and Israel.
Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Abul-Gheit said in a statement: “The US decision reveals its complete bias towards Israel and lack of wise perspective of the nature and history of the 70-year conflict.”
US officials said relocation will take place on the “70th anniversary of the creation of Israel” with staff transferred to a modern building in the Arnona neighbourhood where the US consulate is currently located.
The State Department’s Website stated the consulate will continue operating independently, and that the “temporary embassy at Arnona will include an office for the ambassador and a small staff”.
Meanwhile, Washington has started looking for a permanent location at which to build an embassy, “which is a long-term project”.
The status of Jerusalem is one of the biggest hurdles in reaching peace.
Palestinians insist on East Jerusalem as their capital while the international community does not recognise Israeli sovereignty over all of Jerusalem.
On Fridays, Palestinian demonstrators in the West Bank and along the Gaza Strip border continue to protest Trump’s decision, which resulted in several deaths and hundreds injured by Israeli army.
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu praised the date of relocation as “a great day for the people of Israel” and hoped Trump would come in person for the occasion.
While meeting Trump in the White House Monday, Netanyahu said: “Our people will remember you as the first president to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel,” and Trump responded that he is looking into attending the opening.
He added: “If the Palestinians do not return to the negotiating table there will be no peace.”
Saeb Erekat, secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) Executive Committee, said choosing the Nakba anniversary to relocate the embassy is “a provocation to Arab and Muslims and crushes the two-state option”.
In a brief statement, Erekat said Trump’s administration “has truly become part of the problem and cannot be part of the solution. The decision shows that the US administration has excluded itself as the sponsor of the peace process.”
Hamas warned that the US move will “blow up the region in the face of Israeli occupation”.
The group issued a statement noted: “Moving the embassy will not give the occupation legitimacy or change the reality in Jerusalem… The decision is a clear violation of international law and contradicts all international records on Jerusalem.”
On 15 May, Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and refugee camps commemorate the Nakba of 1948 when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were forced out of their homes, villages and towns to neighbouring Arab countries. Israelis, on the other hand, celebrate “independence day”.
Two days after the US decision, Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales said his country will also relocate its embassy to Jerusalem in May.
Morales, who has many conservative Christian supporters, told the annual meeting of AIPAC in Washington that, “I would like to thank President Trump for leading the way… his brave decision encouraged us to do the right thing.” He added that relocating the embassy “is a true indicator of Guatemala’s support of the people of Israel”.
Guatemala, which receives large sums of US aid, was among a handful of countries that supported Trump’s December decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. In a statement after its weekly meeting in Ramallah, the Palestinian consensus government strongly objected to Morales’s announcement and called for Arab action against Guatemala.
Meanwhile, Fatah led by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas urged Arab countries to apply Arab League resolutions to sever ties with any country that relocates its embassy to Jerusalem.
In light of Palestinian action to confront the US’s decision and anticipated announcement on the “deal of the century” on the conflict with Israel, sources told the press that Abbas decided during Saturday’s Fatah meeting to appoint his deputy Mahmoud Al-Aloul as head of the group if Abbas is absent from the scene.
According to local media, Abbas said the “deal of the century” is due soon, stating: “This may be my last session with you; no one knows when their end will come. If they want to announce the deal, they can do whatever they want, but nothing will happen unless we agree. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I will not end my life with treason; Fatah’s son does not compromise, sell or hand off. The fundamentals are fundamentals and cannot be altered.”
Analysts believe the coming months will be difficult for Abbas, especially as two key events draw near that not only threaten the identity of Jerusalem but the foundation of the Palestinian cause. Namely, the “deal of the century” sponsored by Trump, and relocating the US embassy to Jerusalem on the anniversary of the Nakba.
Meanwhile, the PLO’s Executive Committee met Wednesday to discuss the Palestinian National Council (PNC) meeting and agenda.
PNC Chairman Salim Al-Zaanoun said preparations are underway for the PNC to meet no later than 5 May, and the date will be decided at the Executive Committee’s meeting. Zaanoun told Palestinian Radio that the PNC will have an ordinary meeting since Hamas and Islamic Jihad have not yet responded to an invitation to attend and explain their positions on joining the PNC.
He said an invitation will be sent out again after a date is chosen.
The PNC is the highest authority for the Palestinian people wherever they are located. It decides the PLO’s policies and agenda, similar to a parliament. It was created in 1948, was renewed in 1964, and includes 765 members representing all factions (except for Hamas and Jihad), associations, unions and independents.
Hamas and Jihad object to holding a session before the PNC is restructured to represent all factions. The last time the PNC met was in 1996, and there was a follow-up in Ramallah in 2009.
*This story was first published in Al-Ahram Weekly