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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 18 December 2018

Palestinians warn new intifada possible as Trump recognises Jerusalem as Israel capital

'This is a recipe for extremism, for violence, for God knows what,' said Abdullah Abdullah, a Palestinian legislator who supports president Mahmoud Abbas

US president Donald Trump holds up the proclamation announcing that the United States recognises Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and will begin the process of moving its embassy there, during an address from the White House in Washington on December 6, 2017. Kevin Lamarque / Reuters
US president Donald Trump holds up the proclamation announcing that the United States recognises Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and will begin the process of moving its embassy there, during an address from the White House in Washington on December 6, 2017. Kevin Lamarque / Reuters

Enraged Palestinian officials warned on Wednesday of a possible new intifada as Donald Trump announced that the United States would recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital and a senior Israeli cabinet minister surrealistically said the step would advance peace.

"This is a recipe for extremism, for violence, for God knows what," said Abdullah Abdullah, a Palestinian legislator who supports president Mahmoud Abbas.

Mr Abdullah, speaking ahead of president Trump's speech on Wednesday, said history since 1929 had shown that the Palestinians rise up against attempts to alter the status of Jerusalem. Asked if there could be a new intifada, he said: "It's possible. Every means available to us we will use to oppose such a move and its consequences."

Predictably, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed the move, which overturns seven decades of US policy and deals a sharp blow to prospects of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

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Mr Netanyahu's far-right education minister, Naftali Bennett, meanwhile said peace would not be reached without "recognition of Jerusalem. I don't know what will happen in the short term but in the long run this is an important step on the path to peace".

Israel occupied East Jerusalem, with its holy places for Jews, Christians and Muslims, during the 1967 war and then annexed it in violation of international law. The Palestinians, who see East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state, view the latest US move as endorsing and perpetuating that annexation and as foreclosing the status of an issue that is supposed to be negotiated by the parties.

"This is the most dangerous decision. It takes the US out of the role of broker and puts America against all international institutions," Mr Abdullah said. "When you have the strongest country in the world siding with the occupier this means the destruction of American involvement in peacemaking."

He predicted that "now the Israelis will use this cover as a protection in their violations of international law and security council resolutions whether regarding Jerusalem or the Palestinians".

Meanwhile, senior Muslim cleric Ekrema Sabri, the former mufti of Jerusalem, termed Mr Trump's decision as "an unjust, aggressive provocation against all the Muslims and Christians".

"We don't recognise any American decision," he said. "We adhere to the decision of God, the most blessed and supreme. America has no relation to Jerusalem just as Jews don't."

Asked if there would be violence, he told The National: "Everything is possible. The people if they rise up, don't wait to consult others. Pressure leads to an explosion."

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh meanwhile denounced Mr Trump's move as "aggression against the Palestinians, the Muslims and all free people in the world".

"No one can foresee how things will develop after such a decision not only on the Palestinian level but that of the region as a whole," he added.

Speaking from the bookstore he owns on Salah Al Din Street, the main thoroughfare of East Jerusalem, a native of the city, Imad Muna, said: "The Palestinian street is boiling. It is very touchy. We are talking about Jerusalem, Al Aqsa mosque, the churches, the holy places. The feeling is that the heart is beating."

"As a Palestinian Jerusalemite, I say that Donald Trump won't decide to whom Jerusalem belongs. Jerusalem was, is and will be for Palestinians. We remain on our land and nothing can change that."

Mr Muna, also speaking ahead of Mr Trump's speech, said he could accept West Jerusalem being recognised as Israel's capital if at the same time East Jerusalem was recognised as the capital of a Palestinian state.

But instead, he said, Mr Trump "will kill any hope for the future of any process of peace because the peace process depends on East Jerusalem as capital of Palestine. Without Jerusalem there is no state and no peace".

While Mr Trump's move was welcomed by Yair Gabbay, the head of Israel's opposition Zionist Union party, Israeli doves voiced alarm.

"This is the kiss of death to the peace process and the two-state idea," Alon Liel, former director-general of the Israeli foreign ministry, told The National.

"I live in Jerusalem and am personally worried for myself, my children and grandchildren," he added.

"Jerusalem is a difficult city as it is and this will turn Jerusalem into an impossible place to live in. I want to live in a democracy and if the two-state solution is crushed then we have to go to other solutions that will ruin democracy in Israel."