Riots and Response
Yesterday was Nakba day, which is the day that the Palestinians commemorate the “catastrophe” of the declaration of the State of Israel and the subsequent self imposed exile and expulsions of around 300,000 Arabs. Most of those Arabs were either instructed to vacate their towns and villages by the Arab governments attacking Israel, who promised them Jewish property after the Jews were defeated and “thrown into the sea”. Many also fled because of fictitious rumors that the Jews would massacre them, while a small number were, in fact, expelled by the IDF.
The Palestinians traditionally commemorate Nakba Day with widespread protests, which often turn violent. The fear was that as a result of the opening of the new US embassy in Jerusalem on Monday, the Palestinians would unleash their fury at the US and Israel with massive violence on Nakba Day, resulting in tremendous loss of life, But while several thousand Palestinians did clash with IDF troops in 18 different locations, only one Palestinian was killed and two Israeli soldiers lightly wounded in the riots.
Along the Gaza border, only around 400 Palestinians protested yesterday and no casualties were reported. One of the primary reasons for the relative peace was because the IDF sent drones over the border to drop tear gas canisters in order to keep people away from the border. This tactic succeeded on averting loss of life and dispersing any potential trouble.
The situation on Monday was very different. While the US embassy was being inaugurated in Jerusalem, around 40,000 Palestinians in Gaza massed along the border fence and attempted to break down the fence and infiltrate into Israel. Waves of thousands of “protesters” rushed the fence. Many tried to cut the fence with wire-cutters. Some tried to place explosive devices along the fence.
In the face of this massive attempt to breach the fence and cross the border into Israel by tens of thousands of Palestinians, the IDF was forced to use deadly force to defend the border and its soldiers. More than 1,200 were shot and wounded, with 116 in serious or critical condition and 61 killed. A joint investigation conducted by the IDF and the Shin Bet following the violence found that 24 out of the 61 people killed were terrorists affiliated with Hamas or Islamic Jihad. According to reports from the scene, the IDF exercised extreme restraint in its reaction to the attack, which greatly reduced the casualties that could have otherwise resulted.
Regarding the moving of the US embassy and the assertion that it destroys all hope for a peace agreement, the fact is that the embassy is located in the western part of Jerusalem which has always been recognized as being part of Israel. So locating the US embassy in its current location makes no statement regarding the status of east Jerusalem.
In fact, President Trump clearly stated that the US was not making any decisions regarding the status of east Jerusalem and rumors have circulated that Israel might even be asked to withdraw from certain Arab areas of east Jerusalem, which would become part of a Palestinian capital, as part of a potential peace agreement. These rumors were never confirmed, but the fact remains that a US embassy in west Jerusalem recognizes only that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital, not that the entirety of what is considered part of Jerusalem today (like certain areas of east Jerusalem) must always remain under Israel’s jurisdiction.
What the US has done is stand up for truth and reality — that Jerusalem as a whole is not on the negotiating table and will remain Israel’s eternal capital. Now perhaps a real, practical agreement between Israel and the Palestinians can be achieved. But only if the Palestinians agree to participate.
In response to the violence and loss of life along the Gaza border on Monday, the UN Security Council convened an emergency session, called by Kuwait. US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley told the council, “Those who suggest the Gaza violence has anything to do with the location of the American embassy are sorely mistaken. Rather the violence comes from those who reject the existence of the State of Israel in any location … We must remember that the terrorist organization Hamas is the one undermining regional stability for many years before the US decided to move the embassy. It was Hamas who set fire to the Kerem Shalom crossing, the main crossing through which equipment and food arrives in the Gaza Strip.”
Regarding the IDF response to the attacks Haley said, “Who among us would accept this type of activity on your border? … No country in this chamber would act with more restraint than Israel has.”
In other reactions, Turkey expelled the Israeli Ambassador and other diplomats, while other European countries called for an investigation into the bloodshed.
For further reading click here.
Guatemala’s President Jimmy Morales inaugurated his country’s embassy in Jerusalem today. He tweeted, “Today we mark a historic day in the friendly relations between Guatemala and Israel.”
PM Netanyahu said (at the ceremony), “It’s not a coincidence that Guatemala is opening its embassy in Jerusalem among the first, you were always among the first. You were the second country to recognize Israel, but you had a very important role in this. Your ambassador to the United Nations, Jorge Granados, was very active in lobbying the countries at the UN at the time to support the Partition Resolution, which was effectively the recognition of the Jewish state by the United Nations.”
In conclusion, the PM said, “In this spirit of friendship and a common bond, we welcome you to Jerusalem for the opening of this embassy. I look forward to discussing with you the practical ways that we can advance this friendship and this alliance.”
Paraguay has said it will move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem by the end of May.
For further reading click here.