US President Donald Trump has embarked upon a strategy that incorporates even more delays for Palestinians than those of his predecessors. Previous presidencies were marked by obvious support for Israel’s security narrative which in turn led to increased dispossession and violence against Palestinians. Trump has projected ambiguity in the form of promises for a solution while playing a game of incitement, particularly when it comes to Jerusalem. On the periphery, the previous insistence of moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem remains the subject of occasional debate.
The news that US President Donald Trump might unilaterally recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital has prompted Palestinian Authority leaders to issue statements of objection. PA leader Mahmoud Abbas stated that such a move would “free the Palestinian leadership from any previous understandings with the administration”. The reference is the two-state compromise and its ramifications which, given the impossibility of implementation, reveals the weakness of the PA in the wider framework of colonisation.
Meanwhile PLO Secretary-General Saeb Erekat issued a statement describing the possible move as promoting “international anarchy and disrespect for global institutions and law, but it will also be disqualifying itself to play any role in any initiative towards achieving a just and lasting peace.”
It is interesting, albeit abhorrent, to note that both Abbas and Erekat have shifted discourse away from Palestinians to prioritise the role of the US in the negotiations. The message conveyed isolates Jerusalem from the Palestinian narrative by stipulating it as a condition for negotiations, even after all the concessions made by Erekat as revealed in the Palestine Papers. If in recent history the PA was willing to make “historic compromise” about Jerusalem, there is nothing preventing it from making Jerusalem a bargaining chip on different levels, this time to safeguard a process which is guaranteeing Israel’s colonial expansion and which will ultimately affect Jerusalem too, whether Trump moves forward with his declaration or not.
Palinfo has reported a similar stand taken by Ismail Haniyeh who, in a telephone conversation with Abbas, stated that such a move from the US “would kill the peace process once and for all”. Calls for a new Intifada have also been made in case of recognition. It is here that the balance shifts from demands to the people. However, the past sporadic uprising by Palestinians shows that there is a different momentum within Palestinian society – one that will not hesitate to differ from what constitutes an intifada in terms of structure, power and leadership.
The latest happenings – from reconciliation to the Saudi plan for Palestine, as well as Trump’s threats to deplete Palestine further, indicate a merging of priorities for the PA and Hamas. The latter’s stance needs to be made clearer in terms of resistance and away from the jargon that characterises the reconciliation process, if necessary. As a land of historical importance, Palestinian leaders need to avoid the mistake of discussing Jerusalem within the context of negotiations or as a symbol for Palestinians and Muslims. If this opposition is to move beyond the usual rhetoric, the premise must be a direct stance against the colonisation of additional Palestinian territory.