BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Amid US President Donald Trump’s inauguration on Friday, Palestinian activists burned pictures of the controversial US leader at the separation wall’s gate at the northern entrance of Bethlehem city in the occupied West Bank.
Participants told Ma’an that the event was a message of rejection against the president and the new administration’s support for moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
The activity included hanging up pictures of Trump with slogans rejecting his views which many have called divisive and racist. As activists began burning images of Trump, Israeli forces quickly arrived and attempted to expel them from the area, while threatening to use force on the activists.
Israeli forces then tore apart pictures and signs used during the demonstration.
Journalist Muhammad al-Lahham, who participated in the activity, said that the protest was launched in order to raise warnings of the backlash that wil likely erupt both in Palestine and around the world if the new administration went through with the move.
He added that Jerusalem is not just a Palestinian issue, but a concern for all Arab and Islamic countries. “Trump supporting this Jewish state is exactly like supporting ISIS,” al-Lahham said, reiterating critics who have drawn comparisons between the fight for an Islamic caliphate with an establishment of a Jewish state.
The fate of Jerusalem has been a focal point of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for decades, with numerous tensions arising over Israeli threats regarding the status of non-Jewish religious sites in the city, and the “Judaization” of East Jerusalem through settlement construction and mass demolitions of Palestinian homes.
Trump’s campaign promise of moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem has been met with applause by right-wing Israeli officials and strongly condemned by Palestinians and the international community.
Right-wing Israeli politicians have also delayed several bills until Trump was officially sworn, as Israeli officials have publicly stated they will more easily advance plans to expand Israeli settlements and consolidate Israeli annexation of occupied East Jerusalem and other parts of the West Bank.
A bill to annex the illegal Maale Adumim settlement is expected to be introduced on Sunday two days after Trump’s inauguration. The bill’s creator ultra right Education Minister Naftali Bennett said following the election of Trump that his presidency would mark the end of a push for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.
“This is the position of the President-elect, as written in his platform, and it should be our policy, plain and simple. The era of a Palestinian state is over,” he said.
Maale Adumim is the third largest settlement in population size, encompassing a large swath of land deep inside the occupied West Bank. Many Israelis consider it an Israeli suburban city of Jerusalem, despite it being located on occupied Palestinian territory in contravention of international law.
Calls to annex the massive settlement — to pave the way for the annexation of the majority of the occupied West Bank — have gained momentum among Israel’s lawmakers and ministers following the passage of a UN resolution condemning Israeli settlements and reaffirming their clear illegality.
Meanwhile, the controversial outpost “Legalization bill,” which passed its first reading the Knesset, is believed to have been postponed until after Trump is officially sworn in and it can more easily pass its second and third reading without US condemnation.
The controversial bill would see the legalization of Israeli outposts which are deemed illegal by both Israeli and international law, and would cause what the Israeli NGO Peace Now called “grand land robbery.”
All Israeli settlements and outposts in the occupied Palestinian territory are deemed illegal under international law, despite the Israeli government’s official recognition of the some 196 settlements scattered across the occupied West Bank.
The now Republican-dominated congress have also already made moves to further entrench Israel’s illegal annexation of East Jeruasalem by introducing a bill which would move the US embassy to Jerusalem.
According to The Guardian, Republican senators Ted Cruz (Texas), Dean Heller (Nevada), and Marco Rubio (Florida), introduced the Jerusalem Embassy and Recognition Act at the 115th Congress in Washington earlier this month, as Republicans control both the Senate and House of Representatives for the first time since 2007.
If implemented, the bill would give legitimacy to Israel’s illegal occupation of East Jerusalem since 1967, disregard Palestinian claims to the city, and possibly terminate a longstanding White House policy to perpetually defer a 1995 Congressional decision to recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital and move the embassy there.
This month also saw the US House of Representatives approve a bipartisan resolution rejecting UN resolution 2334 that passed last month strongly denouncing Israel’s illegal settlement building in occupied Palestinian territory, and instead stated their unwavering commitment and support for the state of Israel.
The resolution confirmed US commitment as a diplomatic ally to the Israeli government and demands that the US government dismiss any future UN resolutions they deemed “anti-Israel.”
Trump has also been a vocal supporter for the expansion of illegal Israeli settlements on Palestinian territory, which have been condemned by the international community as representing a clear violation of international law.
Earlier this month, outgoing US President Barack Obama renewed a presidential waiver that again delayed plans to relocate the embassy for another six months, citing “national security interests,” as every US president has done since Bill Clinton.
While many countries have consulates in Jerusalem that cater to citizens residing in the occupied Palestinian territory, the majority of embassies to Israel are located in the Tel Aviv area.
Meanwhile, Trump’s choice for US Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, has been described as a “pro-settler lawyer” who has openly announced his disdain for the two-state solution and his support for recognizing an undivided Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
He has positioned himself as a divisive and controversial figure in Israeli-Palestinian politics, accusing President Barack Obama of being an “anti-Semite” and comparing American Jews who oppose the half-century occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, to Nazi prisoners who served as guards in concentration camps.
Friedman also serves as president of the American Friends in Beit El Yeshiva — a group that supports the illegal settlement of Beit El near Ramallah in the occupied West Bank — and said he hoped to “strengthen the unbreakable bond between our two countries and advance the cause of peace within the region, and look forward to doing this from the US embassy in Israel’s eternal capital, Jerusalem,” just hours after being appointed to the post.
Last month, Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Secretary-General Saeb Erekat warned that the PLO would revoke all previously signed agreements with Israel as well as the PLO’s 1993 recognition of Israel if Trump followed through on his pledge to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
During a conference call in Washington D.C. organized by the Wilson Center, Erekat reportedly said such a move would indicate the US’s acceptance of “Israel’s illegal annexation of East Jerusalem,” and further warned that “any hope of peace in the future will just vanish,” Times of Israel reported.