MUSCATINE — As protests grow increasingly violent over President Donald Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital, Muscatine area residents spent time Thursday reflecting on the declaration.
Muscatine is sister cities with Ramallah, the seat of the Palestinian government, where protesters set tires on fire Thursday, filling the air with a thick black smoke, according to The Associated Press.
The protests and violence arose from Trump's Wednesday remarks, in which, after warnings from Arab and European leaders, he called for the U.S. Embassy to be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and said he supports a "two-state solution" for Israel and Palestinians.
Israel wants an undivided Jerusalem as its capital and has supported Trump’s decision, while Palestinians are demonstrating against the move. Palestinians seek Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem as its future capital, which was captured by Israel in 1967.
Thursday, Palestinian and Jewish Americans in the Muscatine area had mixed reactions to Trump's position.
"The declaration has no value on the ground, but it has consequences," said John Dabeet, president of Americans and Palestinians for Peace. "But it's not changing anything because international law still considers Jerusalem as occupied Palestinian territory. ... It was taken by force in 1967, occupied by force."
The consequences, Dabeet said, are already being seen, with violence breaking out in the Middle East and international leaders criticizing Trump's stance. He also views the announcement as "death to the two-state solution."
Dabeet agreed with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas when he suggested with Trump's move, the U.S. disqualified itself as mediator in the peace negotiations.
"The sad thing is that his declaration is becoming the biggest destruction for the peace process," he said. "We look at [Trump] and his government as non-honest brokers anymore in the peace process."
Allan Ross, executive director of the Jewish Federation of the Quad Cities, said while he considers peace negotiations to now be at a stalemate, the final peace treaty will include "what to do with Jerusalem" and be decided through negotiations with the Israelis and Palestinians.
The Jewish Federation of North America supported Trump's announcement this week, saying the president "indicated that the important, substantive decisions are left to the Israelis and Palestinians," such as determining sovereignty and borders.
"It has to be between them and not be forced by anyone else; and the president's statement (Wednesday) did not force anything," Ross said. "He's still committed to a peace agreement. The United States and its allies are the only ones who, at least I feel, could help with the peace process."
Decades of peace talks have failed to bring Palestinians closer to the state they seek in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem. Meanwhile, Israel has expanded Jewish settlements on occupied lands, since the Six-Day War in 1967.
In his statement, Trump did not take a position on a potential reshaping of Jerusalem. The city is a sacred ground to Christians, and its Old City is home to the third-holiest mosque in Islam and the holiest site in Judaism, holding great meaning for both Muslims and Jews.
"Jerusalem is a tough nut to crack, so to speak," Ross said. "But I will say that only under Israeli rule have all religions been free to practice their religious beliefs, and all religious institutions have been protected and safeguarded by the Israelis."
Dabeet said, "I'm a Christian, but no different than Muslim Palestinians when it comes to Jerusalem. We all have a special place for Jerusalem in our heart.
"Palestinian government and leadership committed 100 percent to the peace process, to a just and lasting peace agreement so that our generation can live a normal life. We can have freedom to go out and do basic things, like go to the grocery store, without having to fear they may get shot by Israeli soldiers and lose their life."
In the local Jewish community, Ross said he heard differing reactions from everyone he has spoken with since Trump's announcement. He said it is too early to determine if the stance will be a positive or negative for peace in the future.
But for now, hundreds of Palestinian protesters continue to clash with Israeli troops across the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.