December 10, 2017 Special Dispatch No. 7217

Reactions To U.S. President Trump's Jerusalem Announcement: Hamas, Resistance Axis Call For Violence, Attacks On U.S. Interests; Palestinian Authority, Moderate Arab Countries Express Restrained Condemnation, Hope For Retraction

December 10, 2017
Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Palestinians | Special Dispatch No. 7217

U.S. President Donald Trump's December 6, 2017 announcement of U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital, and of the planned move of the U.S. Embassy there from Tel Aviv, has triggered a range of reactions from Palestinians and across the Arab world, from relatively restrained condemnation to calls for violence and a new intifada.

The Palestinian Authority (PA), and the Arab countries of the moderate axis, led by Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Jordan, condemned Trump's announcement, and expressed hope that it would be retracted, but refrained from calling for violence. In contrast, Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and the resistance camp stressed the need for stepping up attacks, particularly against U.S. interests and troops, and even called for attacks on U.S. embassies. In this context, it should be noted that Hizbullah secretary-general Hassan Nasrallah was cautious, calling on the Arab and Islamic world to act, and only committing to providing monetary and moral support, and weapons, for Palestinian action, without mentioning any Hizbullah involvement.

The following is a review of the various reactions in the Arab world to President Trump's Jerusalem announcement.

PA, Saudi Arabia, Egypt Condemn Trump Announcement, But Refrain From Calling For Violence

The PA, as well as the moderate Arab countries, headed by Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Jordan, condemned Trump's announcement in harsh terms. Their official statements called it irresponsible and said that it disregarded international law, international resolutions and the position of the Arab and Muslim world. They also warned that it jeopardized the peace process and could provoke Arabs and Muslims, undermining stability and security in the region and the world and endangering U.S. interests. However, they refrained from inciting violence; even the PA officials who called for a "day of rage" were careful to call only for peaceful protests.[1] The PA daily Al-Ayyam also republished an article from 2012 by columnist Hassan Al-Batal, titled "Why I Don't Want a Third Intifada," in which he advocated long-term negotiations accompanied by a "calm intifada," that is, like the first one, as opposed to the second one, which was characterized by the use of weapons and suicide bombings.[2]

Similarly, a December 6 article by senior Palestinian journalist Bakr 'Awida in the London-based Saudi daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, published prior to Trump's announcement, criticized the rage and ranting over the anticipated announcement, and called on Palestinian statesmen to act wisely and to refrain from expressing harsh and useless condemnation.[3]

In his December 6, 2017 televised speech following Trump's announcement, Palestinian President Mahmoud 'Abbas said: "Our national cause is today at a critical moment, after the steps that the American administration announced it would take with regard to Jerusalem. With this announcement, the American administration chose to act contrary to all international and bilateral resolutions and agreements, preferring instead to ignore these and to act against the international consensus, as expressed in the positions announced in recent days by the world's countries and leaders, spiritual leaders, and regional organizations regarding Jerusalem."

Calling Trump's announcement and plan to move the embassy "perverse and repulsive," 'Abbas added that they constituted "the deliberate destruction of all the means [used for] achieving peace, and also a declaration of the U.S.'s rejection of the role it played in past decades as patron of the peace process." They also, he said, "serve the extremist organizations that are trying to turn the dispute in our region into a religious war."

'Abbas noted that in recent days he had been in close touch with the leaders of the countries friendly to the Palestinians, and that it had again become clear that there was a united Arab, Islamic, and international position on Jerusalem, on the rights of the Palestinian people, and on achieving a just and comprehensive peace "based on the establishment of a sovereign and independent Palestinian state on all the territory occupied in 1967, with East Jerusalem as its capital, alongside Israel, and the resolution of the refugee problem in accordance with Resolution 194 and the Arab Peace Initiative."

He stressed: "Jerusalem, the capital of the State of Palestine, is bigger and more deeply rooted than any move or decision, and it has an Arab identity... Jerusalem will thwart any plot against it, just as it has done throughout history. President Trump's decision this evening will not change the reality in Jerusalem, and will not legitimize Israel on this issue in any way. [Jerusalem] is a Palestinian, Arab, Christian, and Islamic city, the capital of the eternal Palestinian state."

'Abbas concluded with congratulations for "our pure martyrs and their families, our wounded heroes who sacrificed so much for Palestine and Jerusalem," and added: "Long live Palestine; long live Jerusalem, the capital of a free Arab Palestinian state."[4]

An editorial published by the PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida the day before Trump's announcement, titled "Jerusalem Is a Red Line and More than That," warned that Trump's move would "open up the gates of hell" and cause terror, while emphasizing that this was not meant to be "a threat against anyone under any circumstances" and also stressing the need to assess the situation "objectively and responsibly."[5]

On December 7, Fatah Central Committee member 'Azzam Al-Ahmad announced that after Trump's announcement all official contact with the U.S. would be completely cut off.[6]

In contrast to the restrained official Palestinian responses, Palestinian National Council members in Jordan, headed by Salim Al-Za'noun, issued a statement stressing that the Palestinians were entitled "to oppose the occupation by any means in order to attain all their rights: [the right] of return and [the right] to establish an independent state on the June 4, 1967 borders with Jerusalem as its capital."[7]

In addition, Fatah's official Facebook pages posted explicit incitement to violence. One post featured a photo of protesters in Nablus burning Trump in effigy.[8]

Another post stated: "Express [your] rage, for if you submit today you will [live] in submission for thousands of years to come."[9] The official Facebook page of the Fatah Youth urged all Palestinians to protest on the settlers' roads and at the friction points.[10]

The editor of the Palestinian news agency Maan, Nasser Al-Lahham, wrote in an article that "the Palestinian street will prove that the affair will not end with three days of rage." He called the Jews "a vile minority unable to accept the other," and added that Trump's announcement "proved that the Jews have managed to take over America and can control it more than they control Palestine." However, this does not lend them legitimacy in Palestine, he said.[11]

A statement by Saudi royal court expressed deep regret and displeasure at Trump's announcement, asserting that it "would not affect the permanent and protected rights of the Palestinian people in Jerusalem and in the other occupied territories or impose a new reality in [Jerusalem]," and expressing hope that the U.S. administration would retract it.[12]

The U.S. Embassy steamrolls the peace process as it moves to Jerusalem (source: Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, London, December 6, 2017)

A statement by the Egyptian Foreign Ministry expressed concern over the possible repercussions of the announcement, adding that it "will not change the legal status of Jerusalem, which is considered an occupied city."[13] The Jordanian government spokesman also condemned it, stating that Jerusalem was one of the issues of the final settlement, to be decided as part of an overall solution for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict "that will ensure the establishment of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital." He too insisted that the announcement had no legal implications.[14]

Similar reactions were published following the December 7 meeting of Palestinian President Mahmoud 'Abbas and Jordan's King Abdallah in Amman. The joint statement they issued stated that the American announcement was a violation of international law which could have dangerous results and lead to tension and violence in the region.[15]

Several Jordanian officials took a harsher line than the restrained statement of the Jordanian King. The state minister for prime ministry affairs, Mamdouh Al-'Abadi, called upon all Muslims from the Atlantic to the Gulf to take to the streets for the sake of Jerusalem.[16] Parliament Speaker 'Atef Al-Tarawneh urged MPs to participate in protests against Trump's announcement.[17]

Restrained condemnation also characterized editorials published in these countries. An editorial by the Saudi daily Al-Riyadh published the day after the announcement stressed the importance of Jerusalem in Islam.[18] A December 8 article by the deputy-editor of the Saudi government daily 'Okaz, Fahim Al-Hamed, emphasized that "the decision will fan the flames of extremism and terror" and jeopardize U.S. interests. The article was accompanied by an image of Al-Aqsa with text in Hebrew and Arabic saying: "There is no peace, Jerusalem is the eternal capital of Palestine." Below the image was a caption saying: "Saudi Arabia has spoken: the U.S. announcement will not change the lasting rights of the Palestinians."[19]

The image in 'Okaz: "There is no peace, Jerusalem is the eternal capital of Palestine"

The December 7 editorial of the Jordanian government daily Al-Rai reported on statements made by King Abdallah in a joint press conference with Turkish President Erdogan on the eve of Trump's announcement, noting that he had said that "Jordan is very concerned about moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, and there is a need to act quickly to arrive at a permanent solution and a peace agreement between the Palestinians and the Israelis that will allow the Palestinian people to establish an independent state with East Jerusalem as its capital, to exist alongside Israel."[20]

'Alaa Thabet, editor-in-chief of the Egyptian government daily Al-Ahram, wrote, on December 8, that the U.S. was liable to lose its status as broker and patron of the peace process, because Trump's announcement was contradictory to the agreements that the U.S. had sponsored, such as the Oslo Accords. He warned that the announcement could destabilize the region, as well as harm American interests, and added: "This decision [Trump's announcement] could cause instability, and even an explosion, whose scope and ramifications for stability in the region and for the U.S.'s allies – and particularly for the security of Israel itself – cannot be predicted."[21]

In its December 8 editorial, Al-Ahram stated that the Arabs and Palestinians themselves are partly responsible for the current situation, because of the intra-Arab and intra-Palestinian schisms.[22]

Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Resistance Camp Call For Intifada, Attacks On Israeli, U.S. Interests

In contrast to the positions expressed by the PA and the moderate camp, those expressed by Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and the resistance camp were harsh. The spokesmen for this camp called for violence and confrontation on the ground, for a new intifada, and for attacking U.S. soldiers and embassies.

Hamas Political Bureau Head Isma'il Haniya: Ignite A Renewed Intifada

At a December 7 press conference, Hamas political bureau head Isma'il Haniya called for a new intifada beginning December 8, for a stop to the internal disputes in the Arab countries, and for a boycott against the U.S. administration.[23]

To view Haniya's statements on MEMRI TV, click here or below:

Palestinian Islamic Jihad deputy secretary-general Ziyad Al-Nakhala called to declare the U.S. an enemy of the entire ummah and launch a confrontation with it.[24]

Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades In Gaza: We Will Advance Towards Jerusalem "With Millions Of Martyrs"; Israeli And American Interests Will Be At Risk

In an announcement, the Nidal Al-'Amoudi faction of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade[25] referred to Trump as "Satan" and called on the Arab and Muslim ummah to support the armed struggle to liberate all Palestinian land. It concluded the announcement by promising: "We will die and live for Jerusalem... It is the heart of our faith and honor, and we will advance towards it with millions of martyrs."[26]

Another faction of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, Fursan Al-Fatah, warned that "damage to our holy places will result in grave consequences for American and Israeli interests in the region."[27]

Hizbullah Secretary-General Nasrallah Expresses Support For A New Palestinian Intifada, Won't Commit To Participation In Violence

In contrast, Hizbullah secretary-general Hassan Nasrallah merely expressed support for a new intifada, and called on the Arab and Muslim world "not to stand idly by" and to "offer full moral, political, monetary, and material support, and also aid with weapons, to the Palestinian people" – but did not promise that Hizbullah would be participating in this uprising.[28]

The most extreme message came from the Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar, which is affiliated with Hizbullah, and its editor-in-chief Ibrahim Al-Amin, who called for killing U.S. troops and burning U.S. embassies.

Front page of December 7, 2017 issue of Lebanese Al-Akhbar daily: "Death to America"

In an article titled "Either America or Jerusalem," Al-Amin wrote: "We will not reclaim [even] one piece of Palestine unless we declare total war [on the U.S.], and make its life hell, its flag a symbol of disgrace, and its army a wild beast wandering the world... The only choice left to us is to shout in unison: 'Death to America.' We must declare total war on America and on its interests everywhere... All the Arabs must choose: Either America or Jerusalem...

"Whoever chooses to belong to Jerusalem and to defend it must work ceaselessly and with all his might to kill every American soldier [stationed] outside [America's] borders and to conquer the American embassies all over the world or burn and destroy them. We must expel from our countries every American official, diplomat or politician and everyone who receives a salary from the American government..."[29]

Al-Nujaba Militia In Iraq: Trump's Announcement Makes It Legitimate To Target U.S. Forces

Akram Al-Ka'bi, secretary-general of the Al-Nujaba militia, said: "Trump's decision on Jerusalem will be legitimate justification to harm American forces... The decision will be the spark of a great intifada to remove Israel [from the map]."[30]


[1] For example, PLO Executive Committee member Ahmad Majdalani declared that the Palestinians would confront Trump's announcement with popular peaceful protests. Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), December 7, 2017.

[4], December 6, 2017.

[5] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), December 5, 2017.

[6], December 7, 2017.

[7], December 7, 2017.

[8], December 7, 2017.

[9], December 7, 2017.

[10], December 7, 2017.

[11], December 7, 2017.

[12] Al-Watan (Saudi Arabia), December 7, 2017.

[13], December 6, 2017. Similar claims were made by the UAE Foreign Ministry, which called the announcement "unilateral," stressed that it would have no impact on Jerusalem's legal status, and expressed apprehension that it would inflame Arab and Muslim sentiments. Al-Khaleej (UAE), December 7, 2017.

[14] Al-Ghad (Jordan), December 6, 2017.

[15], December 7, 2017.

[16] Al-Sabil (Jordan), December 7, 2017.

[17], December 7, 2017.

[18] Al-Riyadh (Saudi Arabia), December 7, 2017.

[19] 'Okaz (Saudi Arabia), December 8, 2017.

[20] Al-Rai (Jordan), December 7, 2017.

[21] Al-Ahram (Egypt), December 8, 2017.

[22] Al-Ahram (Egypt), December 8, 2017.

[23], December 7, 2017.

[24], December 6, 2017.

[25] This branch of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade regards itself as part of Fatah in Gaza but does not recognize Fatah's current leadership, headed by 'Abbas; it supports 'Abbas's political rival Mahmoud Dahlan.

[26], December 6, 2017.

[27], December 6, 2017.

[28], December 7, 2017.

[29] Al-Akhbar, (Lebanon), December 7, 2017.

[30], December 7, 2017.

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