Protests In West Bank And Gaza Over Trump's Jerusalem Decision

Dec 8, 2017
Originally published on December 8, 2017 11:21 am
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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

There are reports this morning that protests have turned deadly in clashes between Palestinians and Israeli soldiers. This comes two days after President Trump reversed longstanding U.S. policy and recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Israeli officials view that move as endorsing their position and their religious ties to the city. But Palestinians have deep roots there as well and seek part of the city for their capital. Protests began yesterday and then intensified today as devout Muslims gathered for Friday prayers. And NPR's Daniel Estrin joins us from Jerusalem. Hi, Daniel.

DANIEL ESTRIN, BYLINE: Hi, David.

GREENE: So what's happened here?

ESTRIN: Well, thousands of Muslims attended prayers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem. And then things started getting tense. I was in front of the Old City walls. And I saw a Palestinian woman hoist up a poster of Trump's face superimposed onto a urinal. And then people started chanting.

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Chanting in foreign language).

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (Chanting in foreign language).

ESTRIN: And then Israeli forces grabbed the poster, and skirmishes started. Clashes and protests have erupted now in at least 30 places in the West Bank, according to the Israeli army, as well as in Gaza. And by afternoon time here, there was a report of at least one Palestinian killed by Israeli fire.

GREENE: OK. So this is covering different areas. I mean, these are - could become more widespread than we're realizing right now. These are in different spots.

ESTRIN: Right. West Bank and Gaza primarily.

GREENE: So Palestinian leaders have been coming up with their response and their strategy in the wake of Trump's announcement. What exactly is their message here?

ESTRIN: Well, they say that Trump has taken Israel's side on the very sensitive question of Jerusalem. Now, Trump did say the borders of where Israel rules can be negotiated in the future, implying that Palestinians could, in the future, get control of some areas of the city. But that's not what is being focused on on the Palestinian side. The imam of the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem today gave a sermon calling on Muslim and Arab leaders around the world to take practical steps in response.

A Palestinian official has said that Vice President Mike Pence, who's planning a visit to the Palestinian city of Bethlehem this month, is not welcome here. I spoke to a White House aide who says there's no change to the vice president's travel schedule, and the vice president thinks it would be counterproductive for Abbas to pull out of the meeting. And we haven't heard anything from President Abbas himself on that yet.

GREENE: So I just wonder - with the sensitivities here - I mean, we're all focusing on what may or may not happen today. But could there be more violence? What - where could this all go in the coming days?

ESTRIN: Well, one of the things we're waiting to see is how the Palestinian leadership is going to react on the diplomatic level. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is asking for an emergency meeting of the Arab League, a summit of Arab leaders. He has to decide - and he's under a lot of pressure - whether to sever ties with the U.S. or not to cooperate with the U.S. in a peace process. And if there is really serious violence that continues, that can dictate where things go. The White House expectation seems to be that this current crisis around Jerusalem will blow over, and it will be possible to resume efforts to broker what Trump has called the ultimate deal for Israeli-Palestinian peace.

GREENE: OK. NPR's Daniel Estrin reporting in Jerusalem. And we should say there we are getting reports this morning that protests have turned deadly in clashes between Palestinians and Israeli soldiers. Daniel, thanks for your reporting. We appreciate it.

ESTRIN: Thank you, David. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.