Politicians and religious leaders across the world are united in their condemnation of President Donald Trump’s provocative announcement that could see the US recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. A decision on the fate of holy city will be made in a speech later today, but world leaders are staunchly opposing the move fearing chaos and upheaval in the region.
Palestinian Ambassador to the UK, Manuel Hassassian, condemned the planned move during a BBC radio interview. “If he says what he is intending to say about Jerusalem being the capital of Israel, it means a kiss of death to the two-state solution,” Hassassian said.
The Palestinian envoy didn’t mince his words telling the interviewer “he is declaring war in the Middle East, he is declaring war against 1.5 billion Muslims [and] hundreds of millions of Christians that are not going to accept the holy shrines to be totally under the hegemony of Israel.”
The Palestinian Authority (PA) has said that it will abandon all previous deals with the US administrations if the American embassy is moved to Jerusalem. It warned that “changing the American policies and the status quo in Jerusalem would have dangerous consequences.”
Concerns over the implications of such a unilateral move are shared across the region. Jordan, charged with a historical duty to maintain the status quo in the holy sites in Jerusalem, has warned of the repercussions. “Moving the embassy at this stage will have repercussions in the Palestinian, Arab and Islamic arenas and threatens the two-state solution,” King Abdullah said during meetings in with US Congressmen. He went on to say that such a move would all but kill off the two-state solution.
Earlier in the week, the Arab League attempted to forestall the announcement with a statement warning of the acceleration of terrorism by the decision that undermines international law and challenges millenniums of history in the region. Any move by the United States to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital would fuel extremism and violence, said Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit.
In spite of divisions in the region, Arab leaders appeared united over the fate of Jerusalem. “[Trump’s plan] is worrying and has dangerous consequences for the peace process, security and stability in the region,” warned Kuwait’s envoy to the Arab League, Ahmed Al-Baker. “The historic right of sovereignty over the holy city is for the Palestinians.” He renewed his country’s support for the rights of the Palestinians over Jerusalem and all the other Palestinian territories occupied in 1967.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been one of the most vocal critics of the plan, telling the US and Israel that a change to the status of Jerusalem was a “red line for Muslims”. Erdogan told parliament his country’s response “could go as far as us cutting diplomatic ties with Israel”.
Major religious figures have come out to warn against Trump’s misguided attempt. Egypt’s Al-Azhar religious authority said US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital “threatens the world’s peace”. In its statement, one of the highest Islamic bodies in the world warned that “the US intention to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital would inflame public opinion among all Muslims, threaten the world’s peace and spread hatred across the world.” Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Church similarly expressed concerns over Trump’s intention saying it “contradicts all international legitimacy and resolutions on Jerusalem,” and will negatively affect the stability of the Middle East and across the world.
The cacophony of despairing voices could also be heard from the Vatican. Pope Francis, who is usually cautious about making political remarks challenged the planned move today during his weekly audience in Saint Peter’s Square, and pleaded for “respect for the city’s status quo”. The 80-year-old Argentine pontiff went on to say: “I cannot hide my deep concern for the situation that has been created in the last few days, and at the same time, I offer a heartfelt appeal for the commitment of all to respect the status quo of the city in conformity with the pertinent UN resolutions.”
His sentiments were shared by Iran who insisted that it will “show no tolerance” toward any change in the status of the city, which is a holy site in Islam, Christianity and Judaism.
With near unanimous global condemnation, Trump’s reasons for adopting such an aggressive unilateral move have come under scrutiny. Critics have said he is willing to compromise international peace, security and stability in order to appease his domestic right-wing base that includes billionaire pro-Israeli funders like Sheldon Adelson; Evangelical Christian Zionists; members of the pro-Israeli lobby groups, many of whom are within his inner circle.
Trump, it seems, is oblivious of the history of Jerusalem as he is with international law and previous US policy. Despite Israeli claims that Jerusalem and the entire West Bank is “disputed territory”, whose future will be decided through negotiations, the status of the occupied territory could not be clearer under international law. The historical facts also cannot be clearer: Israel conquered most of Jerusalem and its hinterlands in 1967. It then annexed these regions in an illegal move. Occupying powers, according the UN Charter and the Geneva Conventions, are not allowed to annex occupied territory, which were enacted to discourage people from acting like imperialists and colonisers. With that in mind, Palestinian East Jerusalem belongs to Israel only in the way that the French city of Nice belonged to Mussolini, who annexed French territory to Italy by military fiat during WWII.
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