JERUSALEM — Angry protesters chased a group of U.S. diplomats out of the Palestinian town of Bethlehem on Tuesday amid frustration over President Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
“You are not welcome anymore!” shouted one of the demonstrators as they broke into a training session organized by the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem and held at Bethlehem’s chamber of commerce and industry, video posted online showed. The event aimed to educate local businesses on the benefits of social media, and an American expert had been scheduled to speak.
“America = ISIS = Terror” read one sign held by a protester, with a picture of Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The men pelted the U.S. delegation’s car with tomatoes as it drove off, and broke off a wing mirror.
“The program was one part of long-term U.S. engagement to create economic opportunities for Palestinians,” the State Department said in a statement. “Though no one was hurt, the objective was clearly intimidation. The United States absolutely opposes the use of violence and intimidation to express political views.”
The State Department has restricted personal travel for its staff in Palestinian areas since Trump’s decision in December to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. That move was met with anger across the occupied West Bank and Gaza, with Palestinians complaining that it denied their claim to the city, the eastern half of which they hope to see as the capital of a future Palestinian state.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said the decision meant the United States could no longer be seen as an honest broker in the peace process. Earlier this month, the United States sliced its aid to the Palestinians, further fueling anti-U.S. sentiment.
On Saturday, demonstrators held a mock trial for Trump and Vice President Pence in Bethlehem, hanging and burning their effigies.