Palestinian and Muslim world leaders reacted furiously to US President Donald Trump’s formal recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital on Wednesday, threatening that the response to the American announcement would be a wave of violence across the Middle East.
In the Gaza Strip, Palestinian protesters stomped upon and burned the American flag during a demonstration against Trump’s move — the initial step in the eventual move of the US Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem from its current location in Tel Aviv.
Salah al-Bardawil, a Hamas leader in Gaza, told the Palestinian news agency Ma’an that Trump’s “stupidest decision” amounted to a “declaration of war,” and that “we as Palestinians are ready to fight.”
Additionally, leaders in the region with close ties to the West — including Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan — all urged Trump to retain the status quo in Jerusalem ahead of his Wednesday speech, with one PA official, Nabil Shaath, stating that “the mother of all the peace deals dies here on the rocks in Jerusalem if [Trump] recognizes a united Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.”
But one former senior White House official with long-standing experience of the Middle East predicted that any forthcoming violence will be short-lived, and that the Fatah leadership of the PA will eventually return to Trump’s much-vaunted Israeli-Palestinian peace initiative.
“The Palestinians will walk away until it’s in their interests to come back — which is probably in a month,” Elliott Abrams — who served as deputy assistant to the president and deputy national security adviser in the George W. Bush administration — told The Algemeiner on Wednesday.
In terms of the wider objections emanating from the Muslim world, Abrams advised Trump to respond in two ways.
“First, he should say rioters are never going to have veto power on American foreign policy,” Abrams stated. “The threat that there will be violence cannot control what an American president decides.”
He continued, “Second, Trump should say that his decision that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel does not foreclose any particular outcome in peace negotiations.”
Remarked Abrams, “Whatever else Jerusalem may be some day, the capital of a Palestinian state for example, it will always be the capital of Israel, so I think he should argue the merits. This decision closes no door.”
On the question of whether the US decision on Jerusalem will negatively impact the thaw in relations between Israel and the Sunni Arab states brought about by rising Iranian influence in the region, Abrams argued that “people may have been expecting too much” to begin with.
“The Saudi foreign minister is not about to fly to Jerusalem and speak to the Knesset anyway, so I don’t think much is lost,” he said. “Again, these governments will do what it is in their interests, the Gulf states are interested in working with Israel on military and intelligence matters, and the same is true of Egypt, especially when it comes to the situation in Sinai.”
“There will be speeches, there will be demonstrations, but then they will do what they need to do,” Abrams said.
On Trump’s own role in the US shift on Jerusalem, Abrams noted that “several presidents in a row promised the same thing, and were then dissuaded by threats of violence, and arguments from the State Department about how the Arab world would react.”
“State will always make those arguments,” Abrams said. “I think this president has finally said that the rioters don’t get a veto.”
(C) 2017 . The Algemeiner . Ben Cohen