Alongside the broad Arab and Palestinian condemnation of U.S. President Donald Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital, some Palestinians identified positive aspects to his announcement, including: an opportunity to gain recognition of Palestine on the part of countries that have not yet done so and to gain U.S. and UN recognition of Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital; as well as an opportunity to promote the UN as the sponsor of the peace process instead of the U.S., and to place Jerusalem and the Palestinian cause on top of the international agenda while isolating Israel and the U.S. in the global community. These Palestinians called to avoid making sweeping anti-American statements, since some Americans support the Palestinian cause, and not to cancel U.S. Vice President Mike Pence's visit to Ramallah. They advised to continue the popular protests, while refraining from burning the American flag or chanting "death to America," and to focus instead on boycotting American products and on diplomatic action vis-à-vis international bodies.
The following are excerpts from articles in the Palestinian press expressing this position:
President Trump displays the executive order recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel (image: Aljazeera.com, December 7, 2017)
Former Palestinian Authority Minister: Do Not Snub Pence During His Visit
Former Palestinian Authority (PA) minister Ziad Abu Zayyad wrote: "I call upon President 'Abbas to receive U.S. Vice President Mike Pence in Ramallah, and to depart as soon as possible for Washington to meet with President Trump, [but] not to demand that he rescind his decision on Jerusalem, because there is no way that he will do that, and it would be political naïveté to speak of this. ['Abbas should go to Washington] to demand that [Trump] announce an equivalent decision that will restore the balance to the American position vis-à-vis recognizing Palestinian sovereignty over Arab [East] Jerusalem, [re]launch the diplomatic process, promote UN recognition of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital, and open the gates to a solution that will guarantee an end to the occupation and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.
"Relying on Trump's decision, we should turn it to benefit us, instead of being dragged along, demagogically and fruitlessly, with the reaction of the street. In order to advance this [idea], we must continue all the popular protests – in the homeland and outside it, in the Arab countries, in the Muslim countries and worldwide – and even expand them.
"Likewise, there is a need for energetic action on the official and international levels, for continued opposition to Trump's unilateral decision, and to support the demand for an equivalent decision on recognizing Arab Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state...
"There is a difference between public opinion, which expresses public sentiment, and an official position, which must be restrained, according to the rules of diplomacy... The public has a right to take to the streets, demonstrate, and denounce a particular position held by its own government, or by another country or another element. [This is] part of freedom of expression and freedom of opinion; [however] these countries and these elements take no notice of what the street is saying, but only of what is conveyed to them via official channels, as official positions.
"In the last two days, much has been said about U.S. Vice President Mike Pence's visit to the region, and about the possibility that President 'Abbas may refuse to meet with him and may cancel [Pence's] Ramallah visit. The first sign of this was a statement, attributed to a senior Palestinian official, that Pence was persona non grata that and 'Abbas would cancel his meeting with him. If this statement is true, it does not reflect the official position of the Palestinians, but only the Palestinian public's outrage vis-à-vis President Trump's announcement that Jerusalem is the capital of the State of Israel, [in which he] ignored [Jerusalem's] importance and sanctity in the conscience and heart of every Arab, whether Muslim or Christian, and of every Muslim worldwide. This [announcement] also contradicted the legitimate international resolutions, including many by the [UN] Security Council and General Assembly, that repeatedly emphasized that Jerusalem is an occupied city and that the measures and laws regarding it that have been and will be issued by Israel are null, void, and worthless. The Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 applies to Jerusalem and the occupied Palestinian territories.
"In light of all the condemnation of Trump's decision and its dangerous repercussions, it is only legitimate to wonder what good will come of the meeting with Pence, and why [Mahmoud] 'Abbas should meet with him. [But] I say, first of all, that President 'Abbas is the leader of a country and must behave like one... Therefore, before the Palestinian decision-makers announce their official position [on this matter], they should examine the advantages and disadvantages of Trump's decision, and formulate their position based [the idea of] forging a counterattack plan, aimed at what we want [at this point], not what Israel wants [to get out of Trump's announcement]...
"While Trump did say that he recognizes Jerusalem as Israel's capital, he [also] said that the borders of the area under Israeli sovereignty are to be determined by negotiations. He added that the decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital is not tied to the outcome of the negotiations over the permanent arrangement – which includes Jerusalem. He also stressed that the status quo in the holy places is to be respected, pointing at the Jewish prayers at the Western Wall, Muslim prayers at Al-Aqsa mosque, and Christian prayers at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.
"This absolute confirmation that Al-Aqsa belongs to the Muslims has put an end to the Jewish aspirations regarding it. Likewise, the statement that the boundaries of Israel's sovereignty [in Jerusalem] will be determined through negotiation, for the reason that Jerusalem is one of the issues included in the permanent arrangement, strips Trump's decision of anything new, and sets it in line with announcements by others, including Palestinian leaders, to the effect that West Jerusalem is the Israeli capital and East Jerusalem is the Palestinian capital…
"Palestinian objections to meeting with Pence, and to go to Washington to meet with Trump, may calm the tempest of inflamed sentiment on the Palestinian street, but they will not help the Palestinian cause, and will accomplish nothing for our people. On the contrary, they could cause great damage to Jerusalem and to us."
Columnist In PA Daily: Trump's Announcement Can Advance Palestinian Cause
Hilmi Al-Ghoul, who was an advisor to former Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayyad, wrote in the PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida: "Just as President Donald Trump's decision, last Wednesday, December 6, 2017, to 'recognize' Jerusalem as capital of Israel constitutes serious damage to the issues anchoring the peace process and Palestinian national interests, as well as a clear flouting of the decisions, laws, and conventions of international legitimacy and a scandalous violation of justice and liberty, it also constitutes an important step to the benefit of the Palestinian issue. This is because it refocused attention on this issue, because of the public, political and diplomatic reaction, on all levels – local, Arab, regional, and international – and also because it granted Jerusalem, the eternal Palestinian capital, political status and weight, by means of the global opposition to the despicable American decision.
"This was manifested by the reactions to it, on all levels and in all echelons, and in last Friday's [December 9, 2017] UN Security Council session, at which 14 [member] countries opposed Trump's foolhardy decision, as well as by the call for Arab and Islamic emergency summit meetings in order to underline the status of Jerusalem as the eternal capital of the state of Palestine...
"The Trump decision, which oppresses the national rights [of the Palestinians], may lay the foundations for a new stage, and for a change in the rules of the diplomatic game. [It can do this if we take] the following Palestinian measures: a) oppose U.S. sponsorship of the peace process; b) appeal for international legitimacy, relying on the major international organizations connected to the peace process, and on international institutions such as the International Criminal Court and the International Court of Justice at the Hague, and other UN organizations; and c) join many UN institutions and organizations, so as to strengthen the Palestinian status worldwide.
"As far as comparing Trump's decision on the Jerusalem issue to the Balfour Declaration, as some have, it should be noted that the Balfour decision aroused no international reaction, since at that time the world was immersed in the maelstrom of imperialism, or was collaborating with it, and also because after World War I..., global influence was split among the major capitalist forces. Thus, the cursed [Balfour] decision sparked no reaction, whereas Trump's decision on the Jerusalem issue was met with opposition and denunciation, and divided the world in two, with the U.S. and Israel on one side of the scale and the rest of the countries and world powers on the other.
"Everyone opposed [Trump's] decision, including the traditional allies of the Israel and the U.S. such as Britain and Canada, the entire European Union, and more. This gave the Palestinian cause, and particularly the Jerusalem issue, the status and importance that they deserve, and, whether Trump, Netanyahu, and those who follow their path like it or not, has brought them to the fore of the Arab, regional and international diplomatic arena. This has opened the horizon, and will in future open it further, to quicker recognition of the Palestinian state, and comprises a massive push that will force Israel to pay what it owes in the political agreement."
Nablus Public Figure: Avoid "Death To America" Slogans, Burning Of American Flag, But Boycott American Products
Zuheir Al-Dab'i, the former director of the Islamic Waqf in Nablus, wrote in an article: "We do not need a 'day of rage' but rather [many] days of contemplation and dedicated action [to promote] awareness, understanding and knowledge. We need to subject our performance to monitoring, analysis, study and assessment, namely to organize our action. This is because our advantage of willingness to sacrifice for our homeland and holy places is not enough. We must create a Palestinian establishment according to the principles of efficient management, because all of our noble, honest, pious and brave [people] cannot contend with the Zionist institutions when their performance is [based on] tribalism...
"Every time the U.S. adds another injustice to the list of its injustices against our ummah and our people we issue statements and hold protests and rallies. That is well and good, but it is not enough and it is not effective. Every time the U.S. perpetrates another injustice against us we also cry out 'death to America' and burn the American flag, when the fact is... that we do not wish death upon America or anyone else, but only [wish to] champion our rights – in Jerusalem, in the Arab homeland and in the Muslim countries – and the right of all people on earth to dignity, freedom, justice, progress and peace.
"Burning the American flag does not benefit us or end any injustice. It only hurts us, because the [warmongers] in America know how to exploit the burning of the American flag to recruit the people there against our rights and against our homeland and cause...
"Just as we oppose the aggressors in the U.S. and everywhere else in the world, so we support the good Americans who reject racism, hate and occupation. Some of them support our people in Hebron's old city, in Jerusalem, and in Yanoun in the Nablus area, and stand with our children and our local farmers and shepherds [in their protests].
"We must warn against violence, for it is a trap that the tyrants set for the oppressed. We have influence and the power to defend our Jerusalem, and [in fact] to defend all of Palestine and all the world's oppressed people and victims of racism and occupation. We can do this by boycotting American products... If we stop smoking American cigarettes, drinking Coca Cola and [buying other] American products, without noise and curses, [we will undermine] the American powers that control mankind's food and pharmaceutical [markets] and the milk [our] children [drink]."
Muhammad Dahlan: We Must Avoid Violence Altogether
Palestinian Legislative Council member Mahmoud Dahlan, who was expelled from the Fatah institutions by Mahmoud 'Abbas, said that Trump's announcement had produced the opposite of its intended effect, because it had placed the Palestinian cause at the center of attention, and because the attempt to harm Jerusalem had reinvigorated the Palestinian youth after a period of stagnation and apathy. The announcement, he said, had also reignited the intifada inside [Palestine] and in the Palestinian diaspora, and had stimulated broad official Arab support for their rights. Adding that the new reality required wise action on the political and diplomatic fronts, he urged "to refrain altogether from the use of arms, so as to avoid falling for the plots of the occupation that are aimed at restarting the cycle of violence." He called on 'Abbas to "declare Palestine, with Jerusalem as its capital, a state under occupation."