A series of mass demonstrations, in response to the recent decision by the American government to relocate its embassy to Jerusalem, have led to violence, as clashes with Israeli military forces have hospitalized over 2,700 and has resulted in the death of at least 58 protesters.
Protesters gathered in several locations along the border fence separating Israeli- and Palestinian-controlled regions of the city, in response to the official opening of the newly relocated American embassy. Originally located in Tel Aviv, the move has reignited the already heated debate on Palestinian rights within the country. The Palestinian community argues that the embassy relocation is a clear move by the U.S to stifle their claims to a capital in East Jerusalem and, enraged by the decision against maintaining neutrality, gathered in protest. Israeli forces stationed along the border claimed that protesters “threw Molotov cocktails, burned tires, and stones at Israeli soldiers positioned along the fence,” actions which they claim necessitated an aggressive response. Palestinian officials called the proceeding violence a “horrific massacre” and announced three days of mourning, urging the international community to join them in condemning Israeli actions. Israel has defended its actions, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stating that “every country has the duty to defend its borders.”
Despite being accused of ignoring Palestinian claims to East Jerusalem, the American administration of President Donald Trump has stated the move is merely one designed to keep promises made during the election campaign. In his speech recorded for the embassy’s opening ceremony, Trump maintained that, “The United States remains fully committed to facilitating a lasting peace agreement,” and that the city’s official borders can still be determined in later discussions. However, this decision sets a clear message for any future negotiations – the Americans have officially abandoned neutrality in favour of a pro-Israeli position.
International reactions to both the embassy move, and the proceeding violence, have been mixed. Many of Israel’s neighbours in the Middle East have profoundly condemned both America and Israel, with Turkey recalling ambassadors to both countries and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan going as far to label Israel a “terrorist state” and their actions as “genocidal.” Saudi Arabia and the United Nations have both expressed concern over the aggression displayed by Israeli forces. Despite this, many countries have displayed their intent in following America’s provocative lead. Paraguay has announced its intentions to relocate its embassy to Jerusalem, with the Czech Republic, Romania, and Honduras considering the move as well.
America’s decision to relocate its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, while seemingly a symbolic move, has many real consequences. Outside of the immediate – protests, anger, and violence – this decision has begun to clearly delineate coming negotiations, ones which will be decisive in determining the nature of Palestine and its people. In deciding to discard the carefully crafted neutrality of past administrations, the United States has fostered tensions in the region, of which appear to be quickly moving towards escalation. More protests are on the way, and if the international community is to remain sincerely dedicated to the goals of peace and inclusiveness, they must quickly find a way to intervene constructively, helping both Israel and Palestine work towards a lasting and meaningful agreement.
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