December 10, 2017, 11:34 AM EST
Violence sparked by U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital erupted for a third straight day, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu began a visit to Europe to defend the decision.
Following a weekend of violence that left four Palestinians dead, protesters clashed Sunday with Israeli troops in the West Bank and a Palestinian stabbed and seriously wounded an Israeli security guard in downtown Jerusalem. The army said it had demolished a Palestinian attack tunnel running from the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory, the second tunnel discovered in recent months.
After meeting Sunday with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris, Netanyahu will continue Monday to Brussels to meet foreign ministers from the 28-nation EU. He pledged to argue in favor of U.S. President Donald Trump’s controversial move, despite criticism from world leaders.
“I will present Israel’s truth without fear and with my head held high,” Netanyahu told reporters before leaving for Europe.
Palestinians claim the eastern sector of Jerusalem, with shrines sacred to Muslims, Jews and Christians, as the capital of a future state, while Israel sees the area as part of its capital. Trump said he was not determining Jerusalem’s borders, and that the two sides eventually would have to negotiate the city’s final status.
Palestinian officials have said Trump’s move disqualifies the U.S. as a mediator in any peace process. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas left Sunday for Cairo, where he was to meet Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and Jordan’s King Abdullah.
Elsewhere in the Muslim world, thousands of Moroccans protested Sunday in front of the parliament building, carrying Palestinian flags and banners declaring Jerusalem as Palestine’s capital. Egyptians protested on university campuses, and Lebanese protesters tried to break into the U.S. embassy in Beirut.
Addressing reporters after their meeting Sunday, Macron reiterated his opposition to the U.S. move and encouraged Netanyahu to take steps toward the Palestinians. Netanyahu said the Trump administration is leading a “serious effort” to make peace, and that accepting Jerusalem as Israel’s capital would help that push.
It’s not yet clear if Trump’s move will fuel a major escalation of violence or lead to serious diplomatic fallout. Fatah, the governing Palestinian faction, has called for more confrontations this coming Friday. Hamas, the militant group ruling Gaza, urged Palestinians to wage an armed uprising in response to Trump’s decision.
Members of the UN Security Council condemned the move Friday, saying it contradicted international law and prejudged the outcome of peace negotiations. On Sunday, Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the UN, told Fox News that Trump’s declaration would “fastball” the peace process, and hadn’t ruled out a Palestinian capital in the eastern part of Jerusalem.
Jerusalem’s status must be worked out in peace negotiations with Israel, Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riad Malki said Saturday in Cairo, adding that Abbas wouldn’t agree to meet U.S. Vice President Mike Pence when he visits the region next week. The head of Egypt’s Coptic Church also said he would boycott Pence.
— With assistance by Tarik Bargal, Lin Noueihed, Fadwa Hodali, and Saud Abu Ramadan