Palestinian leaders condemned new US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday for his remarks reiterating Washington's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital and the move of the US Embassy to the occupied city.
"Blinken's remarks confirm the firmness of the US strategy to support Israel," said Sheikh Ekrema Sabri, an Imam at Al-Aqsa Mosque and former Grand Mufti of Palestine. The relocation of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to occupied Jerusalem was an old decision, he pointed out, even though it was ex-President Donald Trump who carried it out.
"The difference between Trump and the new president is no more than some tactics. Both have the same established foreign policy towards Israel and the Arabs." The position of the US will be more or less the same under President Joe Biden, he believes. "It will be a mistake to bet on any new or former American president. Changing people at the top doesn't necessarily mean changing strategies. It's the same with Israeli leaders."
Biden, insisted Sheikh Sabri, should know that the Palestinians have a godly connection with Jerusalem. "Our existence in Jerusalem was ordered by God, not by the UN or the UN Security Council… Our Jerusalem will not change; it is the US which has to change its policies."
As far as Hamas is concerned, Blinken's comments are a denial of the Palestinian people's long-established right to their land and holy sites. "Such comments reaffirm the failure of relying on US administrations to support Palestinian rights," said spokesman Hazem Qasem. "We must rely only on the ability of our people to take their legitimate rights through a unified resistance strategy. To do that we have to put the Palestinian house in order."
According to a senior official of Islamic Jihad, Blinken has delivered a slap on the face of those who bet on Washington as an honest broker. "His words reveal that the US plans to maintain its policies," added Daud Shehab.
Fatah official Abdullah Abdullah, meanwhile, pointed out that the relocation of the US Embassy was a decision by Congress and no president can cancel it. "Trump carried it out, but Biden can have the embassy in West Jerusalem and open a US Consulate in East Jerusalem." He called for Biden to recognise East Jerusalem as occupied territory and the capital of Palestine.