Protesters Lash Out at Trump Across Muslim World

Large crowds of protesters across the Muslim world staged anti-U.S. marches Friday after the United States recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, with protests in Gaza leading to the death of one Palestinian man.

The Palestinian, Mahmoud al-Masri, 30, was killed by Israeli soldiers during clashes along the Israel-Gaza border after Palestinians called for a “Day of Rage” to protest the U.S. action. The Israeli military confirmed that it shot two people in Khan Yunis in southern Gaza, accusing them of being “main instigators” of “violent riots.”

Israeli warplanes also struck Hamas military targets in Gaza in response to a rocket fired from the area. The Palestinian health ministry said at least 15 people were injured in the strikes.

Demonstrations also took place Friday in Iraq, Jordan, Syria, Pakistan, Lebanon, Malaysia and Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country.

The Arab League, comprised of nearly two dozen countries, will meet Saturday in an effort to create a joint position on the matter.

U.S. President Donald Trump announced Wednesday that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and the United States plans to move its embassy there. Israel considers all of Jerusalem to be its capital. The Palestinians want the eastern part of Jerusalem for its capital of a future independent state.

​Holy sites

Israel has added additional security forces in Jerusalem. In the past, Israel has imposed age restrictions at Jerusalem’s Temple Mount compound where violence often erupts during tense times.

Israeli police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld said, “We have no indication there will be disturbances on the mount, therefore there is no age restriction. If there will be disturbances, then we will respond immediately.”

The site is known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as the Temple Mount. It is the holiest Jewish site and the third holiest in Islam.

The Islamist group Hamas, meanwhile, has called for an uprising against Israel.

​Decade of diplomacy defied

Trump’s announcement defies decades of diplomacy in the quest to bring peace to Israel. Jerusalem has been one of the biggest stumbling blocks in the quest and it was widely believed that a solution would be reached in the peace process negotiations.

The White House on Thursday denied that the president’s announcement on moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem means his administration is pulling out of the Middle East peace process.

“In fact, in the president’s remarks, he said that we are as committed to the peace process as ever, and we want to continue to push forward in those conversations and those discussions,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters. “And hopefully the ultimate goal, I think, of all those parties is to reach a peace deal. And that’s something that the United States is very much committed to.”

No other country has immediately followed Trump’s lead in planning to relocate its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, something the White House has acknowledged.

“I’m not aware of any countries that we anticipate that happening at any point soon,” Sanders said. “I’m not saying that they aren’t, but I’m not aware of them.”

The Russian ambassador in Israel, Alexander Shein, said Moscow could move its embassy to West Jerusalem “after the Palestinians and the Israelis agree on all issues of the final status of the Palestinian territories.”

The Russian foreign ministry, in a statement viewed as a surprise by Israelis, said it considers “East Jerusalem as the capital of the future Palestinian state. At the same time, we must state that in this context we view West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.”

​To draw up plans

Trump, on Wednesday, said he was directing the State Department to immediately begin drawing up architectural plans for a U.S. embassy in the holy city. But the actual relocation of the U.S. embassy, however, would take years, according to White House officials.

“We have to acquire a site, we have to develop building plans, construction plans, as you point out, ensure we get the authorizations — although I do not anticipate any difficulties getting those authorizations. And then actually build an embassy,” U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Friday at a joint press conference with his French counterpart in Paris.

“So this is not something that is going to happen this year, probably not next year,” Tillerson added, also noting that Trump was careful to say in his speech Wednesday that recognition and moving the embassy do not indicate any final status for Jerusalem.

Both Tillerson and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis have expressed concern about the timing of Trump’s announcement, according to U.S. officials.

Asked by VOA whether the president’s declaration had been delayed at the request of the two Cabinet members in order to put into place adequate security at U.S. embassies, Sanders replied the decision was made only after “a thoughtful and responsible process” and that “components of the decision went through the full interagency process.”

Palestinian officials say Trump’s decision has disqualified the U.S. as an honest broker in the peace process. Many U.S. allies are also disagreeing with the move.

Robert Berger in Jerusalem, and Steve Herman at the White House contributed to this report.

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