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Palestinian activists burn pictures of Trump as the controversial figure is sworn into office

Jan. 21, 2017 10:36 A.M. (Updated: Jan. 23, 2017 7:25 P.M.)
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 the city of Bethlehem in the southern occupied West Bank.

Participants told Ma’an that the event was a message of their rejection of the American president and the new administration's support for moving the US embassy to Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

The protest 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, threatening to use force on the activists.

Israeli forces then tore apart pictures and signs used during the demonstration.

Ma'an journalist Muhammad al-Lahham, who participated in the protest, said that the it was launched in order to warn of the backlash that will likely erupt both in the occupied Palestinian territory and around the world if the new administration went through with moving the embassy.

He added that Jerusalem was not just a Palestinian issue, but a concern for all Arab and Muslim countries. “Trump supporting this Jewish state is exactly like supporting ISIS,” al-Lahham said, reiterating claim by critics who have drawn comparisons between the fight for an Islamic caliphate and the 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 occupied 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.

The now Republican-dominated US congress already introduced a bill that would move the US embassy to Jerusalem, as Republicans control both the Senate and House of Representatives for the first time since 2007. The US House of Representatives meanwhile approved a bipartisan resolution rejecting UN Resolution 2334 against Israel’s illegal settlement building in occupied Palestinian territory, instead stating 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.”

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 former US 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 prisoners who served as guards in Nazi 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.

As a result of the Trump administration's vocal support for Israel and its settlement policy, right-wing Israeli politicians have been delaying several bills until after Trump's inauguration, 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.

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 -- seen as paving 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 in the Knesset at the end of 2016, is believed to have been postponed until after Trump is officially sworn in so 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.

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.

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