Demonstrators in the occupied Palestinian territories launched the “Day of Rage” Tuesday as U.S. President Donald Trump met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on the heels of his visit to Jerusalem to fortify longstanding ties between Washington and Israel.
Trump met the leader in Bethlehem, where Palestinian activists had set up an effigy representing Palestinian prisoners in front of the Nativity Church, calling attention to the mass, historic hunger strike currently being waged by more than 1,500 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. Another effigy was set up by the Marxist-Leninist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine that depicted Trump.
While the two talked at length about peace negotiations, with Abbas confirming he is “committed to working with (Trump) to reach a historic peace deal between us and Israel,” Palestinians rallied outside chanting slogans such as “Trump, listen! The prisoners will not kneel!” and “We have a message to the Americans: Prisoners are our priority!”
One activist took to the mic to say, “We came to tell you that the one who decides the fate of Palestinian people are the Palestinian refugee camps and not the Americans, the cause of the camps is the cause of all Palestinians,” Palestinian news outlet Ma’an reported.
“The fate of Jerusalem can’t be decided by Trump, for Jerusalem is Arab; Jerusalem is Palestinian, and we decide its fate, not the Americans. The only ones who supported Palestinian people are the heroic prisoners, they are strugglers, fighting with only their bodies,” he added.
Trump claimed that his meetings with both Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pointed to efforts toward peace.
“I had a meeting this morning with President Abbas and can tell you that the Palestinians are ready to reach for peace,” Trump said in speech at the Israel Museum.
“In my meeting with my very good friend Benjamin, I can tell you also, that he is reaching for peace. He wants peace,” he said. “Making peace, however, will not be easy. We all know that. Both sides will face tough decisions. But with determination, compromise, and the belief that peace is possible, Israelis and Palestinians can make a deal.”
During a meeting with Abbas at the White House earlier this month, Trump vowed to work as a “mediator, an arbitrator or a facilitator” to help forge the “toughest deal” between Israelis and Palestinians, but failed to put forward any new proposals.
Meanwhile, Abbas and the PA have continued to be viewed increasingly unfavorably by Palestinians, both due to the PA’s recent violent suppression of demonstrators protesting against Israeli forces, as well as the authority’s “revolving door policy” that effectively funnels Palestinians from PA jails into Israeli prisons, as part of its “escalating security collaboration” with Israeli authorities.
Abbas has also agreed to work towards a two-state solution, which is not supported by the majority of Palestinians.
Diana Buttu, a Palestinian lawyer and former adviser to the Palestine Liberation Organisation, said Trump’s vapid rhetoric about “peace” in the region is futile.
“The time is now for the world to end Israel military rule,” she told Al Jazeera. “It’s not going to come through negations; it’s only going to come through exerted efforts to hold the Israelis accountable by boycotting through sanctions and bringing them before the international criminal courts.”
When Trump met with Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu the day before, they both had referred to hopes for a wider peace deal in the region, keeping pace with a decades-long imperial alliance between the two countries that deftly ignores the demands from oppressed peoples living in occupied Palestine.