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Trump’s Jerusalem decision: Apart from getting enraged, Palestinians can do little

The Israeli State --both economically and militarily powerful -- is no easy pushover and fury on the streets is unlikely to propel the Palestinians anywhere close to their goal of an independent nation.

opinion Updated: Dec 09, 2017 16:39 IST
Ruben Banerjee
A Palestinian protester uses a sling to hurl stones towards Israeli troops during clashes as Palestinians call for a
A Palestinian protester uses a sling to hurl stones towards Israeli troops during clashes as Palestinians call for a "day of rage" in response to President Donald Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital, near the Jewish settlement of Beit El, near the West Bank city of Ramallah, December 9, 2017(REUTERS)

Rage is sweeping the streets of Gaza and the West Bank after US President Donald Trump decided to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Palestinians are aghast. Their claim over Jerusalem -- the site of the revered Al Aqsa mosque and home to some 3,30,000 Arabs -- is at the heart of their aspiration to carve out a nation for themselves and Trump’s announcement has dealt their dreams a body blow.

But their collective anger may not result in anything substantive, apart from derailing the already stalled West Asia peace process. Protests have already erupted across the region. Disenchanted and frustrated Palestinian youth are fighting pitched battles with Israeli security forces. Palestinian leaders are threatening more: They have called for a third Intifada (uprising) and a fresh bout of bloodshed looks a certainty.

Palestinians have justifiable reasons to be angry. They have been reduced to being stateless in the land that belonged to them. Those in Gaza virtually live the life of prisoners as Israel restricts movements of both men and material. In the West Bank, Palestinians are subjected to a harsh Israeli occupation that robs them of dignity. The injustices they suffer are many and their angst is just.

But apart from being livid, Palestinians, who are no more in charge of their lives, can do precious little. Their past threats to unleash ‘shock and awe’ with their rage have proven to be hollow. All Israeli intransigence have historically been met with Palestinian bombast. When the wheel-chair bound Ahmed Yassin, the spiritual leader of the Palestinian group Hamas, was assassinated by the Israelis in 2004, the Palestinians threatened to exact revenge by opening up the ‘road to hell’. It did precious little to deter the Israelis, who killed another top Hamas leader, Abdel Aziz al-Rantisi, a month later. More Palestinian threats followed, but without much avail. Far from being chastened, the Israelis raided Gaza twice since then, bombing the densely populated region to ruins.

That they are leaderless plunges the Palestinians deeper into despair. Mahmoud Abbas, the leader of Fatah who became the Palestinian president in 2005 for a four-year term, continues to cling on to his chair without being duly re-elected. Hamas, his rival faction that controlled Gaza, ran a police State rife with rights violations. Held hostage by a leadership that apparently lacks majority approval, there is a yawning disconnect between those at the helm and the Palestinian population in the streets. Consequently, hot-heads often take matters into their own hands, firing crude rockets at Israel. But for the din, the projectiles make no difference on the ground. If at all, they provoke Israel to tighten the screws on Palestinians.

The helpless Palestinians are trapped in a hopeless situation. Though the plight of Palestinians remains an emotive issue across the region, they have also been failed by other Arab nations whose rulers pay lip-service to their cause. Many are complicit with Israel, emboldening the Jewish State in doing what it does: Choking Gaza, forcibly expanding settlements in the West Bank and pushing the Palestinians further into penury.

Going by past experiences, the latest provocation triggered by Trump, will do little to change the fortunes of the Palestinians. Passions inflamed, there could be violence and the region could slip into another round of anarchy. But there is not much more an impoverished population of emaciated people can achieve. The Israeli State --both economically and militarily powerful -- is no easy pushover and fury on the streets is unlikely to propel the Palestinians anywhere close to their goal of an independent nation.

@rubenbanerjee