Robert Palladino underlined that the move did not signal a change of US policy towards Jerusalem, the West Bank, or the Gaza Strip. Before the merger, the US maintained its diplomatic relations with the Palestinian Authority through the Consulate General in Jerusalem. Palestinian officials have repeatedly stated that the merger will reinforce Israel's claim to control over Jerusalem. The planned merger was first announced back in October.
Sputnik has discussed this issue with Abdul Sattar Kassem, a professor of political science at the An-Najah National University in Nablus in the West Bank.
Sputnik: The US said that this measure does not change the American policy towards Jerusalem. How justified is this assumption?
Abdul Sattar Kassem: What has been taken by the United States, the steps that Trump has been taking against the Palestinians — he doesn't stop his actions in support of the Israelis and in negating the Palestinians. So what he has done lately, when he moved the American Consulate from Jerusalem, the eastern part of Jerusalem to the western, is that he is negating the Palestinians. He is not recognising that the Palestinians have their needs. They need to have visas; they need to have certain contacts with the Americans and so on. This consulate has been serving the Palestinian needs towards the United States as individuals. The Palestinians are not recognising his actions in moving the American Embassy from the western part to the eastern part. Since the Palestinians are not recognizing that and they have taken a certain stance against this policy, he is asserting to the Palestinians that "you will go the western part whether you like it or not. You need to have visas; you are obliged now to go to the embassy in the western part of Jerusalem". So it is a kind of degradation for the Palestinians. You know, we understand Mr Trump that he is a racist with a great deal of prejudice and insanity. No president in this world would take the steps that are not really balanced as Mr Trump has been taking. He is not behaving as an American president. He is behaving like a gangster who doesn't care about other people.
Now, we are a different entity from the Israelis. We need to have an American Consulate, a British Consulate, a Russian Consulate, and so on. We need to have these consulates in the West Bank, because we need them. So, he is negating the presence of the Palestinians and he is asserting the Jewish character of Israel — that Jerusalem should be united as a Jewish capital and the Palestinians should accept that. And what he is heading towards, and we will see in the near future, Mr Trump will serve financial assistance to the Israeli settlements. And there will be an independent entity or autonomous entity for the settlers in the West Bank. And the Palestinians will remain isolated cities and villages under the autonomous rule of the settlers. He is heading towards more radical steps against the Palestinians. Would that serve the Israeli interests? I doubt it. Because we, the Palestinians, have a long experience with these American policies and we have a good experience also towards the Israeli policies. So, we have the strong will to oppose that and to assert in all the independent entities that would lead us finally towards an independent Palestinian state. Mr Trump, he is not giving any respect for the Palestinian people and that certainly will give him or will produce a certain price that he will pay.
Sputnik: How does this impact the peace plan, the prospects of one being negotiated that is going to benefit all sides? What is your point of view?
Abdul Sattar Kassem: Now, look, we don't have a peace process. We have a negotiation process; negotiations that will consume the time without any tangible results. So, when we are talking about the peace process, there isn't [any]. The Israelis have been dominating over the land and building more settlements, more houses, more housing units, and so on. The Israelis have no respect for any kind of agreement with them.
Sputnik: This stance taken by the US, what can Palestine do to ensure its interests?
Abdul Sattar Kassem: The Americans established here in the West Bank so many societies so as to propagate for the American system, economic system and political system. So, many of the people who chose to cooperate with the Americans will draw back. They will not continue cooperating with them. In this regard, the American interests will not be realised here in the West Bank. And our people, whether in the West Bank or in Gaza or in the diaspora, now understand that the Americans are the main obstacle towards achieving a lasting peace in the area.
The views and opinions expressed by the speaker do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.