US President Donald Trump’s revelation of his recent decision to move US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem whereby recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel has been marred by a global wave of disapproval. Trump said his decision was a “recognition of reality”, and that the US was “not taking a position on any final status issues”. The decision was not unexpected because it was a major pledge during his presidential campaign and the one that he has decided to redeem.
Political leaders globally expressed a similar sentiment in their opposition to Trump’s announcement, warning that it would “plunge the region into further endless crisis”. The Palestinian Authority (PA), joined by most Palestinian political factions, declared “days of rage” if Trump were to go ahead with his announcement. The status of Jerusalem goes to the heart of Palestine conflict which has engaged various middle eastern countries in war with Israel on behalf of Palestinians.
President Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas launched a diplomatic campaign while meeting with leaders from all over the world in an effort to convince them to pressure Washington to drop the move. Palestinian leader held meetings with various world leaders including Jordan, Egypt, France and Qatar, asking them to pressure Trump to drop planned recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital as ‘the world will pay the price’ for any change in Jerusalem’s status. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has been working to prevent the US from recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
The Arab League also condemned the move, warning it would fuel extremism and violence. “Today we say very clearly that taking such action is not justified. It will not serve peace or stability, but will fuel extremism and resort to violence,” Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit said in a statement regarding Trump’s announcement. “It only benefits one side; the Israeli government that is hostile to peace,” he rightly added.
An earlier warning came from secretary-general of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation Executive Committee and chief negotiator with Israel, Saeb Erekat. He said that “Any American move about recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel will bring about the end of the Jerusalem issue. This represents a threat to the future of the peace process and is unacceptable for the Palestinians, Arabs and international community. This issue is weighty and dealing with it is playing with fire.”
Any American step related to the recognition of Jerusalem as capital of Israel, or moving the US embassy to Jerusalem, represents a threat to the future of the peace process and is unacceptable for the Palestinians, Arabs and international community.
Both Israelis and Palestinians claim Jerusalem as their capital city. While the occupier Israel maintains its primary government institutions there, the State of Palestine foresees the holy city as its seat of power. Israel considers Jerusalem as its “eternal and undivided” capital, while the Palestinians claim East Jerusalem, occupied by Israel in the 1967 war, as the capital of a future Palestinian state. However, neither of these claim is recognized internationally on a wider spectrum.
An extraordinary summit of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) was held following Trump’s decision on Jerusalem. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called for the OIC summit in Turkish capital. During the meeting in Istanbul, the 57-member group denounced Trump’s move as “null and void” and called on the United Nations to “end the Israeli occupation” of Palestine.
During the OIC Summit, Muslim leaders warned that Trump’s administration will be liable for “all the consequences of not retracting from this illegal decision”, saying they remain committed to a “just and comprehensive peace based on the two-state solution”. Founded in 1969, the OIC considers itself as “the collective voice of the Muslim world”.
Speaking at the occasion, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said the US had “disqualified” itself from future Israel-Palestine peace talks after proving its “bias in favour of Israel”. Speaking earlier regarding the issue, the OIC’s secretary general Yousef al-Othaimeen, rejected the US decision and urged Muslim leaders to work together to present a united response to the move. “The OIC rejects and condemns the American decision,” he said. “This is a violation of international law … and this is a provocation of the feelings of Muslims within the world. It will create a situation of instability in the region and in the world,” he added.
Turkish President even announced that Turkey intends to open an embassy in East Jerusalem, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said in a speech to members of his AK party that the country’s consulate general in Jerusalem was already represented by an ambassador. “God willing, the day is close when officially, with God’s permission, we will open our embassy there,” Erdoğan said.
Turkey’s newspapers reported that Erdogan will launch initiatives at the United Nations to have Washington’s “disgraceful” decision annulled. “As a country, we are determined to do our bit on this issue. We will wash the dirty laundry of those who breach international law,” Erdogan said in a speech. “We will work to annul this unlawful decision, first in the Security Council and then in the UN General Assembly if it is vetoed there.” He added that Ankara will encourage other countries to recognise the Palestinian state. “Right now, 137 countries in the world recognise the Palestinian state. God willing, this number will further increase with our efforts,” he said.
The ongoing Palestine conflict is the struggle between Israelis and Palestinians that began in the mid-20th century. The origins to the conflict can be traced back to Jewish immigration, and sectarian conflict in Palestine between Jews and Arabs. It has been referred to as the world’s “most intractable conflict”, with the ongoing Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip reaching five decades.
Despite a long-term peace process and the general reconciliation of Israel with Egypt and Jordan, Israelis and Palestinians have failed to reach a final peace agreement. The key issues being mutual recognition, borders, security, water rights, control of Jerusalem, Israeli settlements, Palestinian freedom of movement, and Palestinian right of return. The violence of the conflict, in a region rich in sites of historic, cultural and religious interest worldwide, has been the object of numerous international conferences dealing with historic rights, security issues and human rights, and has been a factor hampering tourism in and general access to areas that are hotly contested.
Many attempts have been made to broker a two-state solution, involving the creation of an independent Palestinian state alongside the State of Israel (after Israel’s establishment in 1948). In 2007, a majority of both Israelis and Palestinians, according to a number of polls, preferred the two-state solution over any other solution as a means of resolving the conflict.
Moreover, a majority of Jews see the Palestinians’ demand for an independent state as just, and think Israel can agree to the establishment of such a state. The majority of Palestinians and Israelis in the West Bank and Gaza Strip have expressed a preference for a two-state solution. Mutual distrust and significant disagreements are deep over basic issues, as is the reciprocal scepticism about the other side’s commitment to upholding obligations in an eventual agreement.
Jerusalem is considered a holy city in the three major Abrahamic religions of Christianity, Islam and Judaism. In Islam, Jerusalem is the third-holiest city, after Mecca and Medina. According to Islamic scriptures, in 610 CE it became the first qibla, the focal point for salat (Muslim prayer) and Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) made his Night Journey there ten years later, ascending to heaven where he speaks to God, according to the Quran.
The holiness of Jerusalem in Christianity, conserved in the Septuagint which Christians adopted as their own authority, was reinforced by the New Testament account of Prophet Jesus’s crucifixion there.
According to the Bible, King David conquered the city from the Jebusites and established it as the capital of the united kingdom of Israel, and his son, King Solomon, commissioned the building of the First Temple. These foundational events, straddling the dawn of the 1st millennium BCE, assumed central symbolic importance for the Jewish people. The sobriquet of holy city was probably attached to Jerusalem in post-exilic times.
As a result, despite having an area of only 0.9 square kilometres (0.35 sq mi), the Old City is home to many sites of seminal religious importance, among them the Temple Mount with its Western Wall, Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa Mosque, and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Outside the Old City stands the Garden Tomb.
One of the oldest cities in the world, Jerusalem was named as “Urusalima” on ancient Mesopotamian cuneiform tablets, probably meaning “City of Shalem”. During the Israelite period, significant construction activity in Jerusalem began in the 9th century BCE (Iron Age II), and in the 8th century the city developed into a religious and administrative center.
During its long history, Jerusalem has been destroyed at least twice, besieged 23 times, attacked 52 times, and captured and recaptured 44 times. The part of Jerusalem called the City of David was settled in the 4th millennium BCE. In 1538, walls were built around Jerusalem under Suleiman, the Magnificent.
Today those walls define the Old City, which has been traditionally divided into four quarters, known since the early 19th century as the Armenian, Christian, Jewish, and Muslim Quarters. The Old City became a World Heritage Site in 1981, and is on the List of World Heritage in Danger. Modern Jerusalem has grown far beyond the Old City’s boundaries.
Jews, Christians and Muslims, over the centuries, have laid claim to Jerusalem as their holy place, and these three monolithic religions have “shaped and scarred” the city for thousands of years. The battle for Jerusalem’s ownership continues, and may well do for years to come. The history of violence and death at al Aqsa Mosque is proof how Jews and Muslims have warred with each other.