The Palestinian Authority announced a day of rage on Tuesday to protest U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's declaration that Israel's settlements in the West Bank do not contravene international law.
The plan includes rallies, marches and protests at points of friction with Israeli security forces, including in Bethlehem, Ramallah and al-Bira. Schools will shut early at 11:30 A.M., to allow students to attend the protests.
The PA leadership, including the Fatah central committee and the PLO, made the decision, announced Monday, following several days of discussion on its reaction to the American move. It remains unclear whether Hamas will join the move and organize protests in Gaza as well.
The PA denounced the move immediately after Pompeo announced last Monday that the U.S. is softening its position on the settlements. However, criticism arose in Palestinian social media circles that the reaction was too muted, consisting of just a statement.
Mahmoud al-Aloul, vice-chairman of the Fatah, told the Voice of Palestine that an action plan had been formed to intensify the protest and “contend with the incessant violations of the occupation." In parallel with political activity, which will include urging other countries to protest the American policy change, there will be a “policy of confronting the occupation’s authorities and settlers in all areas.”
“You don’t need to be a genius to read the political map,” a Fatah activist told Haaretz. "The situation in Israel is very fluid and sensitive. Internal political considerations in both Israel and the U.S. motivate statements or actions that mainly target Palestinians as the weak link." However, he added, the Palestinian leadership has no intention of tearing down the house.
More than 100 Democratic members of Congress signed a letter against the Trump administration’s decision to no longer define Israeli settlements in the West Bank as illegal under international law. The letter, made public on Friday, warned that the administration’s new policy “has undermined America’s moral standing” and made it more difficult to reach an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement.
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The letter is the latest example of the growing opposition within the Democratic Party to the alliance between President Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, particularly on the issue of settlements. Netanyahu promised during the previous Israeli election to annex parts of the West Bank to Israel; the Trump administraiton’s change of policy regarding the settlements was interpreted by politicians and leading analysts in Israel as a “green light” for such a step, despite denials from the White House that this was the administration’s intention.
Responding to questions following his remarks last Monday, Pompeo insisted this was the result of a legal analysis and review process, and rejected the notion that it was linked to domestic politics in either Israel or the U.S.
Pompeo also said that the previous American position of viewing settlements as illegal "did not advance peace."