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Trump's inauguration raises Israeli spirits, Palestinian fears

Watch now: Many Palestinians are wary of what a Trump White House [AFP]

Date of publication: 20 January, 2017

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Video: Protests took place in Nablus, Ramallah, and Hebron Thursday against Trump's pledge to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem, as Israeli forces placed on high alert on inauguration day
Hundreds took part in demonstrations in three Palestinian cities on Thursday calling on President-elect Donald Trump, set to take office on Friday, not to relocate the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Israeli-occupied Jerusalem.

Crowds gathered in Nablus, Ramallah, and Hebron, in protests organized by Fatah, the dominant political party in the West Bank, and other Palestinian factions.

During a presidential campaign defined by off the cuff remarks, controversy, and hyperbole, Trump courted Israeli support and inspired concern among Palestinians by stating that he would move the US Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv.

This commitment was re-iterated by the billionaire property mogul during an interview with Israeli daily Israel Ha-Yom on Wednesday.

At demonstrations on Thursday, protestors carried banners decrying plans to move the US Embassy with chants including “We will not give up on our capital”, and “Oh Trump, listen, listen, you have to rescind your decision” ringing out from the assembled crowds.

Speaking at demonstrations in Nablus, Mahmoud al-Aloul, a Fatah Central Committee member, said that moving the embassy would have a detrimental impact on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

“Moving the American embassy to Jerusalem for the [Palestinians] would mean the abrogation of signed treaties with Israel,” Aloul said in comments published in Al-Quds Al-Arabi.

“The Palestinians cannot accept anything except for East Jerusalem as their capital.”

Translation: Citizens participate in demonstrations in the centre of Nablus in protest of the new US admnistration's intentions to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem.

Jerusalem hawkish mayor Nir Barkat praised Trump’s embassy plans, and accused outgoing President Barack Obama of “abandoning” the Jewish state

Rightwing Israelis celebrate

Figures within the Israeli administration however have been forthcoming in praise for Trump.

Some have gone as far as stating that his arrival in the White House will signal the end of “the notion of a Palestinian state”.

In a video message, recorded earlier this week, Jerusalem hawkish mayor Nir Barkat praised Trump’s embassy plans, and accused outgoing President Barack Obama of “abandoning” the Jewish state by pushing for a settlement freeze, and “surrendering to the Iranians and radical Islam” – rhetoric remarkably close to that promulgated by Trump during his own election campaign.

"This week, President Donald Trump enters the White House. Let's all welcome him together -- as our friend -- and thank him for his intentions to move the US embassy to Jerusalem thereby conveying a clear message to the world that Jerusalem is Israel's undivided capital,” said Barkat in the video, which was posted on YouTube, calling on fellow Israeli citizens to sign a petition of support for Trump’s plans to move the US Embassy.

“Let's make Israel - USA relations great again."

Despite raising hopes among many right-wing Israelis that his election will dash Palestinian aspirations of statehood, and alienating many Palestinians with calls for the US Embassy to be moved to Jerusalem, Trump has in fact expressed an intention to broker a peace deal between Israel and Palestinians.

However Palestinian concerns have hardly been alleviated by the appointment of Jared Kuschner, an Orthodox Jew and director of a family foundation that has made charitable donations to West Bank settlements, as Trump’s apparent go to man to bring about a peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians.

Speaking at a VIP Dinner in Washington on Thursday night – tickets to which were reportedly given to donors that contributed more than $1 million to the President-elect’s inauguration committee – Trump said that Kuschner, who is his son in law, was the best man for the job.

“If you can’t produce peace in the Middle East,” said Trump, “… nobody can.”

Hundreds of Israeli Americans expected to take part in a rally in Tel Aviv on Saturday – in solidarity with similar marches taking place in Washington

Israel divided

However, Israeli society is by no means united in its support for Trump.

Amongst those with reservations concerning a Trump presidency are hundreds of Israeli Americans expected to take part in a rally in Tel Aviv on Saturday – in solidarity with similar marches taking place in Washington – in opposition to the tycoon’s ascent to the White House.

Tensions between Palestinian communities and the Israeli state have been heightened in recent weeks with events in the Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran, where clashes over the demolition of Palestinian homes have led to clashes and at least two deaths, a particular sore spot.

Israeli security forces are on high alert that Trump’s inauguration could spark further escalations of unrest and violence, wary that inflammatory remarks by both Trump, and local Israeli and Palestinian political figures could escalate the situation.

“We are preparing for an escalation in light of the elected president's speech,” said an unnamed security official in comments to The Jerusalem Post on Friday.

“We understand that his statements can exacerbate the situation in the field."

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