JERUSALEM — In Gaza City, Palestinians burned photos of President Trump; in Jerusalem, Jews celebrated by lighting the walls of the Old City with the colors of the American and Israeli flags.
Like so many issues in this region, the decision by Trump to recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital sparked widely divergent reactions. As Palestinian officials talked of cutting ties with the United States or ending security cooperation with Israel, Israeli government ministers and opposition leaders alike welcomed the US decision. Ordinary Israelis and supporters of a two-state solution to the Palestinian conflict, however, expressed fears that the move would ignite another round of violence.
Yediot Ahronot, one of Israel’s leading daily newspapers, ran a photograph of Trump touching the ancient stones of the Western Wall, the Jewish holy site in the hotly contested Old City, under the blaring headline, “Trump Alert.” The article warned of a possible outbreak of violence as Israeli forces readied for protests in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
In the Palestinian territories, Hamas, Fatah, and other Palestinian factions, whose internecine battles have often been bloody and politically debilitating, came together to urge a public venting of rage against Trump.
“These measures are a reward to Israel’s violations of international resolutions and an encouragement for Israel to continue its policy of occupation, settlements, apartheid, and ethnic cleansing,” President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority said in a televised speech in Arabic, which was translated by Wafa, the Palestinian news agency.
Abbas called Trump’s actions “a deliberate undermining of all efforts to achieve peace, and is a declaration of the withdrawal of the United States from playing the role which it has played over the past decades as a peace broker.”
Ismail Haniya, the leader of Hamas, told Al-Jazeera that Trump was making “an unaccountable gamble and an adventure that will not have a ceiling.” He called Trump’s announcement “the beginning of a time of horrific transformations across the region.”
In Gaza City, officials and residents wasted little time taking up the call to protest.
By noon Wednesday, despite a downpour, hundreds of demonstrators burned American flags and posters bearing Trump’s photograph, in a protest at the Unknown Soldier Square downtown.
“The ball of fire will roll until an intifada will break out,” warned Salah al-Bardawil, a senior Hamas leader in Gaza.
In the West Bank city of Ramallah, there were more harsh words. “Trump is a crazy man who knows nothing about politics. I think he should go back to making WWF videos, rather than making these dangerous decisions that will only bring more headaches and bloodshed to our region,” said a retired farmer who gave his name as Abu Malik, 54
Palestinian officials were weighing whether to go so far as to cut off contact with the Trump administration, calling him so biased toward Israel that he had effectively disqualified himself from playing peacemaker.
In Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose aides have boasted that they played a crucial role in coaxing Trump to his decision, made a last-minute appearance at a diplomatic conference in Jerusalem on Wednesday morning — but he did not mention recognition of the capital.
Naftali Bennett, the education minister and leader of the right-wing Jewish Home party, said American recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital “shows that Israel’s strategic patience has paid off.”