Palestinian Authority police blocked traffic through downtown Ramallah’s Manara Square on Thursday to allow for hundreds of Palestinians and Palestinian leaders to protest President Donald Trump’s campaign promise to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
With revolutionary music playing in the background, the demonstrators held up posters and stated their opposition to the proposed relocation of the US’s diplomatic headquarters in Israel.
The posters read “No to moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem,” “We will confront the US’s attempt to relocate its embassy” and “Relocating the US Embassy to Jerusalem is agreeing to support the state of occupation.”
The gathering was organized by Fatah, the dominant party in the West Bank, other PLO factions and local political committees, and marked the first expression of popular Palestinian disapproval of the incoming Trump administration’s intent to relocate the embassy.
However, the question of the Palestinian street’s opinion of Trump and his policies, including that of the US Embassy, still remains unclear.
Just one day before the protest, a number of Palestinians in Ramallah expressed a wide variety of opinions on Trump, ranging from total disapproval to indifference to welcome.
Ibrahim Samhan, 40, a Fatah activist and former prisoner who sat behind bars for 14 years, spoke to The Jerusalem Post over a bowl of warm hummus at the famous Bandali hummus joint and said that who the next US president is makes no difference to him.
“Trump for us as a people will make no difference, like all other American presidents,” Samhan said. “The proof is that Obama was supposed to be the best president for us and he turned out to be the worst. There’s no reason to believe Trump will do anything for us.”
Under president Barack Obama’s leadership, no interim or comprehensive peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians was achieved and settlements were in fact expanded.
Abid Hami, 46, owner of a nuts shop on Rukab Street in Ramallah’s commercial zone, also holds no hope Trump will benefit the Palestinian cause, but is worried that he could do damage to it.
“I know that he won’t be better than Obama, but he could be worse. If he moves the embassy to Jerusalem, we would officially be denied our right to Jerusalem,” Hami said. “If he makes such a move, I think it would be the straw that broke the camel’s back and we would take to the streets in protest.”
Palestinian leaders have warned that if Trump moves forward with his campaign promise to move the embassy, it could lead to instability and possibly violence.
In contrast, experts such as Miriam Elman, a professor at Syracuse University, have estimated that moving the embassy may lead to some demonstrations, but not violence.
Down by Ramallah’s fruit and vegetable market, Ahmad Masri, 36, a construction worker, said he is content that Trump has taken over the Oval Office because he will show where America’s allegiances lie.
“The Trump administration will reveal the true face of America. It has always been in Israel’s pocket and Trump will prove that to the world, for everyone to see,” Masri remarked. “We will all know that America can no longer be an honest broker in our conflict.”
A poll conducted in December by the Arab World for Research and Development consulting firm found that public opinion leaders are divided on Trump.
Responding to a questions about Trump’s promise to relocate the US Embassy, 45% said it would be a bad thing, 35% said it would make no difference and 10% said it would be a positive move.
In Manara Square on Friday night, as Trump was sworn in as president, the streets were relatively quiet, just like any other Friday afternoon.
Nonetheless, Abu Saeed, a barber who works meters away from the square, said that may not be permanent.
“It’s quiet now, but if he moves the embassy, things could change,” he warned.
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