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Palestinians Respond To Trump Declaration


President Trump insists he was not intending to sabotage the Middle East peace process. The president recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital, overriding past U.S. policy to do that only as part of a wider solution with Palestinians. But Trump said he still supports a two-state solution.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: This decision is not intended in any way to reflect a departure from our strong commitment to facilitate a lasting peace agreement. We want an agreement that is a great deal for the Israelis and a great deal for the Palestinians.

INSKEEP: We've been hearing responses to this news from the mayor of Jerusalem, who's heard elsewhere on today's program, and now from Diana Buttu, a former adviser to the Palestinian president, who is on the line from the city of Haifa.

Welcome to the program.

DIANA BUTTU: Thank you for having me.

INSKEEP: And she joins us via Skype. Let's put the president's proposal on the table there. Is it still possible to work out a two-state solution now?

BUTTU: Absolutely not. It - President Trump has made it clear that the United States is going to side with Israel and will forever side with Israel. But more importantly, he's taken the issue of Jerusalem off the table, and in so doing, he sent the message to Palestinians that Israel's actions, that of might equals right, is actually the way to be pursuing things. There's a reason that not a single country around the world has ever recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital, and it's because it was taken through force. And what President Trump has done is, he's now saying to the Palestinians that no matter what Israel does, no matter how much it defies international law, he will continue to press and support Israel and not do anything for the Palestinians.

INSKEEP: Well, let me just ask about what the president said though because of course, East Jerusalem was taken by force in 1967. West Jerusalem was considered part of Israel even before 1967. It is being used as Israel's capital. President Trump says he's just recognizing that reality and also insisting that the drawing of borders that you would have in a two-state solution - who gets what part of Jerusalem, if any - that that's still left to be determined. Is he wrong about that?

BUTTU: Yes, he's wrong. So first, in 1948, Jerusalem was actually taken by force. It was supposed to be an international city, not supposed to be under Israeli sovereignty or Palestinian sovereignty. Israel took it by force and continues to take it by force. There are numerous U.N. resolutions that have condemned Israel's actions, including the establishment of the Knesset and other measures that were - that have been set up post-1967. So the international community has been very firm in its position when it comes to Jerusalem.

What he is now doing is he's saying to Israel, it's OK to continue to build and expand settlements, it's OK to continue to demolish Palestinian homes, it's OK to continue to kick Palestinians out of the city. And he's going to recognize that those actions, in fact, legitimate those actions. So his line is really just a line that Palestinians have heard time and again from Israeli spokespeople, that they want to believe in a two-state solution, while at the same time, doing everything to undermine Palestinian equality and Palestinian statehood.

INSKEEP: And we can affirm, just as a matter of fact from past reporting in Jerusalem, there are Israeli settlements within Jerusalem itself which Israel has annexed to the country, which is not recognized by other countries. But let me just ask, given the reality of the situation, is it possible for you to imagine Palestinians settling for an independent state that has a capital somewhere outside - a little outside Jerusalem?

BUTTU: No, not at all. This is exactly what the Trump administration has been pushing. They've been pushing for the Palestinians to continue to even - accept even less than their rights. So they're pushing not for a Palestinian state, but a truncated Palestinian state - not for Jerusalem, but less than Jerusalem.

INSKEEP: Diana, let me just...

BUTTU: ...No refugee returns...

INSKEEP: Diana Buttu, I just wanted to interrupt. I'm so sorry. Your time is short, and I want you to have time to address one other question because we have some news this morning. A leader of Hamas has been calling for a new intifada. As you know, there are also Palestinian protests going on - some of them peaceful, some of them not looking quite so peaceful. Is there a risk of violence that's going to discredit the Palestinian side here?

BUTTU: If there is going to be violence, it's because Israel's trying to spark that violence. The Arab world has made it - and Muslim world and the entire international community has made it clear that this was not a measure that should have been taken. And the fact that President Trump has taken this measure is going to spark violence, and I'm afraid that Israel's going to do its very best to make sure that protest - it's going to make sure that it does its very best to make sure that those protests turn violent.

INSKEEP: Diana Buttu, thanks for the time, appreciate it.

BUTTU: Appreciate it.

INSKEEP: She joins us via Skype. She's a former legal adviser to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

(SOUNDBITE OF FAT JON'S "FEEL THE VOID") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.