Moderate Arab countries allied with the US joined in a regional wave of condemnation of President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and to begin moving the US embassy there.
The sharp, unambiguous nature of the denunciations reflect the continued resonance of Jerusalem as sacred turf in Arab and Muslim eyes, a desire to be in step with charged-up public opinion, and in some cases, sheer dismay that Trump had disregarded Arab warnings and objections over the issue.
Saudi Arabia, which relies on Washington as its patron and arms supplier in combating the spread of Iranian influence, issued a rare public criticism of the United States on Thursday, calling on the administration to retract the recognition.
Egypt and Jordan, countries heavily dependent on US assistance, also blasted the step. Meanwhile, Turkey issued the most dire warning of the consequences of Trump’s move, saying it would detonate the region.
A statement from the Saudi royal court quoted by Al Jazeera said: “This step represents a big bias against the historic rights of the Palestinians and a big regression in the efforts to push the peace process forward. It is a violation of the American neutral position towards Jerusalem.” The statement voiced the hope that the US “will retreat from this position and accept the international will.”
Saudi Arabia’s Ulama (Islamic scholars) Authority issued a statement stressing the importance of al-Aksa Mosque “in Islam and in the hearts of Muslims.” It added that “peace must be built on right, justice and fairness.”
Jordan’s King Abdullah hosted Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to discuss how to coordinate their moves in opposition to the US step in advance of an emergency meeting of the Arab League on Saturday. Government spokesman Muhammad al-Momani termed the US move “false and illegal because it consolidates the occupation” and a violation of UN Security Council resolutions, according to Al Jazeera.
Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said “the step has thwarted the efforts of peace. The status of Jerusalem should be decided by direct negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians.” The Jordan Times wrote in its editorial that “instead of courageously working for a Palestinian-Israeli agreement and joining hands with pro-peace forces of moderation in the Arab region, Trump has flagrantly succumbed to pressure by an influential lobby in Washington.”
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi spoke to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and voiced “rejection of the American decision and all its consequences,” Al Jazeera reported.
Late Wednesday, the head of Egypt’s al-Azhar Mosque, the most revered institution in Sunni Islam, warned of grave consequences if other countries follow America’s lead and transfer their embassies to Jerusalem.
Egypt’s al-Masry al-Youm newspaper reported Thursday that the sheikh of al-Azhar, Ahmad al-Tayeb warned in a conversation with visiting former British prime minister Tony Blair that “If the door of moving foreign embassies to Jerusalem is opened, this will open the gates of hell.”
He added that such moves would “kindle the feelings of anger among all Muslims, endanger world peace and strengthen division and hatred around the world.”
Al-Tayeb said that mosques should devote the Friday sermon to “Jerusalem and action to support it and to refuse any effort to change its Arab identity.” He said the speeches should “affirm the rights of the Arabs and Palestinians defined in international decisions.”
Egypt’s Islamic endowment minister, Muhammad Mokhtar Gomaa, also decided that the Friday sermon in all mosques in Egypt will be about Jerusalem, al-Masri al-Youm reported. The minister “called on all the Arabs to stand as one against any calls and attempts to change the identity of Arab Jerusalem or negate the rights of the Arabs,” the paper said.
In Ankara, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildrim said: “The US has pulled the pin on a bomb ready to blow in the region,” Reuters reported. He added that Turkey will not recognize the move. President Recep Erdogan said the US move throws the region into a “ring of fire.” Turkey will host an extraordinary meeting of the Organization of Islamic Conference to discuss a response.
Iranian supreme leader Ali Khameini accused the US of “trying to create instability in the region and start a war” to protect the security of Israel, Al Jazeera reported. The Iranian Foreign Ministry issued a statement that the move “provokes a new intifada and leads to an escalation of extremism and violent actions.”
Iraq’s Foreign Ministry warned that the US move would “lead the entire region to unexpected consequences. Iraq is always supportive of our brothers the Palestinian people in establishing a state with al-Quds as its capital.”
The presidency of Syria issued a statement that “the future of Jerusalem is not defined by a president but by the will of loyalty to the Palestinian cause, which will stay alive in the conscience of the Arab nation until a Palestinian state is established with Jerusalem as its capital.”
Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdul-Rahman al-Thani termed Trump’s decision “a dangerous escalation and a summary execution of all peace efforts.” He said it harms “all Arab and Islamic people.”