Al-Jazeerah: Cross-Cultural Understanding
Opinion Editorials, December 2017
Fulfilling his election promise, President Donald Trump announced on December 6, recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
However, this reversal of longtime U.S. policy did not come out of blue. A series of reports published since December 6, unveil the role of major Arab countries in Trump’s not-unexpected announcement.
Israeli journalist and head of the Arab desk at the Israeli channel News 10, Zvi Yehezkeli said that the announcement could not have been made without coordination between Trump and his regional allies. News 10 claimed Saudi Arabia and Egypt gave US President Donald Trump the go ahead to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to the occupied city.
Egypt and Saudi Arabia’s low level representation at the Islamic summit on Jerusalem called by the current OIC head, President Recep Tayyib Erdogan of Turkey, perhaps gives credence to this Israeli report. US client Egyptian President President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi sent his foreign minister Sameh Shoukry while Saudi Arabia was represented by a junior minister, state minister for foreign affairs, Nizar Madani.
Istanbul Declaration announces E. Jerusalem capital of Palestine state
The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) issued the Istanbul Declaration on December 12 recognizing East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine.
"We confirm that we recognize the state of Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital, and call the world to recognize East Jerusalem as the occupied capital of Palestine," the declaration said.
The OIC was established during a historic summit in Rabat, Morocco in 1969 following an arson attack on Al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied Jerusalem.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan told the OIC summit that the U.S. President Donald Trump's decision is a reward for Israeli “terror acts.”
According to an Anadolu Agency report, Erdogan is now largely viewed as the spiritual leader of all Muslims around the world.
"President Erdogan is not only the leader of Turkey, he is also the spiritual leader of all Muslims around the world, in the view of many Muslim societies,” Hamit Emrah Beris, a professor at Ankara's Gazi University, said adding:
“Erdogan is trying to develop a common language and attitude for all Muslims but this approach is not compatible with the interests of many authoritarian governments in the region.”
Tellingly, while the international community has almost unanimously disagreed with Donald Trump’s announcement, reports suggest that the announcement was done with the pre-agreement of Egypt and Saudi Arabia, with the Saudi Arabia going as far as, stating to the Palestinian President to accept a village on the outskirts of Jerusalem as the alternative Palestinian capital.
Saudi Arabia orders media outlets to limit coverage of Trump’s Jerusalem move
Since the announcement, Saudi Arabia’s royal court has instructed the nation’s media outlets to limit the airtime given to protests against Trump’s announcement.
According to a report by the Arab news portal The Middle East Monitor, the instructions were sent to managers of television and radio stations, as well as newspaper editors.
Additionally, both the Saudi and Bahraini embassies in Jordan warned their citizens against participating in the protests and demonstrations organized in Jordan against Trump’s decision.
The Saudi embassy in Amman posted the following to its official Twitter page: “The embassy calls upon its citizens living in Jordan and its students studying in Jordanian universities to stay away from places of public gatherings and protests in order to protect their safety.”
Makkah and Madinah imams silent on Jerusalem in Friday sermons
Tellingly the Saudi imams of the Grand Mosques in Makkah and Madinah did not mention the situation in Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa Mosque during their Friday (Dec 8) sermons. Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem is regarded as the holiest place in Islam after the two Grand Mosques.
Although the Imam did point out that the Kingdom “reiterated the legal rights of the blessed Palestinian people” and hailed King Salman and other Muslim leaders for seeking the best for Islam and Muslims, well-known Shaikh Maher Mu’eqili did not mention the issue of Jerusalem in his Makkah sermon.
Shaikh Abdullah Al-Bu’ejan, who delivered the Friday sermon in The Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah, did not mention the Jerusalem issue at all. Instead, he discussed God’s miracles in the change of the seasons throughout the year.
Saudi offers Abu Dis as future capital of Palestine
Interestingly, in November, Saudi Arabia proposed a peace initiative between Israelis under which Palestinians were offered the village of Abu Dis as the future capital of Palestine instead of East Jerusalem.
The New York Times reported on Dec. 3 that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman made the proposal during Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ visit to Riyadh last month.
According to the proposal, the Palestinians will get a non-contiguous state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip over which they will have only partial sovereignty while the majority of Israeli settlements in the West Bank will remain. The proposal does not grant Palestinian refugees and their descendants living in other countries the right of return to Israel.
According to the paper, Saudi Arabia gave Abbas two months to respond to the offer.
Abu Dis is a Palestinian town near occupied East Jerusalem. According to the Oslo Accords it is classified as Area B which is administered by both Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
The Arab League
The final statement presented by the Arab League foreign ministers in Cairo on Saturday Dec 9 was an example of the lackluster language that will prove ineffective.
The Cairo-based Arab League met to address the issue, releasing a statement which called on Washington to retract its decision, adding that such a move would only amplify violence throughout the region.
The Arab League said that Trump's announcement was a "dangerous violation of international law" which has no legal impact and was "void.
However, the Arab League statement was not as incisive and strong as it was expected. It was not proportionate to the issue of the Palestinian cause.
Arab administrators (rulers) negotiated with US, Israel over Jerusalem: Ibrahim Karagül
Ibrahim Karagül, Editor-In-Chief of the Turkish newspaper Yeni Safak, believes that Arab administrators (rulers) negotiated with US, Israel over Jerusalem.
In a televised discussion focusing on Trump’s intention to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Karagül said: “After Jerusalem, Mecca and Medina will be targeted. Young Arab administrators sat down to negotiate with the U.S. and Israel about Jerusalem for their own futures. Every country, including Turkey, is under the threat of the invasion project. From North Africa to Pakistan, it is necessary to foresee what will be done in this geography,” said Karagül.
“The United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait formed a Gulf axis against Iran. They established frontiers and promised security for the Gulf. Today, the U.S. is telling the Gulf countries that their enemy is Iran, not Israel. They want to mobilize the Gulf against Iran,” Karagül said.
“Arab states cannot discern the rise in the East. They are caught up in the West. Debates that ruin the state of mind of Muslims are being held,” he concluded.
Zionism In The Light of Jerusalem
Jim Kavanagh, in his article - “ Zionism In The Light of Jerusalem” – argues that Donald Trump's official recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel is an embarrassment to the Arab monarchs and the Palestinian Authority functionaries, who for decades have collaborated in the task of subduing Palestinian rage as Israel went about its colonizing project holding out the promise that the good American Daddy and his kinder, gentler Israeli Jewish progeny would one day reward the Palestinians for their good behavior.
Kavanagh believes that Trump's Jerusalem announcement was the culmination of American politics. “His recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel is the fulfillment, exactly as Trump says, of a promise that's been de rigueur for presidential candidates, and of the demand of a law (Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995) passed twenty-two years ago by overwhelming majorities in both Houses of Congress. Just six months ago, the Senate--including Chuck Schumer, Dianne Feinstein, Kamala Harris, and Bernie Sanders--voted 90-0 to demand that Trump "abide by its provisions." Schumer, who believes he's on a mission from God to be the guardian of Israel, had last week criticized Trump for his "indecisiveness" about declaring Jerusalem the "undivided capital of Israel" and moving the embassy.”
“We live in a country where powerful politicians and the wealthy donors who control them proclaim their fealty to Israel; where Israeli officials enjoy veto power over candidates for office down to the level of State Assembly. where the Secretary of State gives a "devoutly Zionist" speech and is still criticized for not being obsequious enough to Israel, where the Vice-President declares "I am a Zionist," and where a President who was excoriated for avoiding service in the American army can say "I would personally grab a rifle, get in a ditch, and fight and die" for Israel, and nobody bats an eyelash,” Kavanagh concluded.
Tellingly, the United States on Monday (Dec. 18) vetoed a draft United Nations resolution rejecting President Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital after all 14 other Security Council members backed the measure. Key US allies Britain, France, Italy, Japan, and Ukraine were among the 14 countries in the 15-member Security Council that backed the measure asserting that any decisions on the status of Jerusalem “have no legal effect, are null and void and must be rescinded”.
Abdus Sattar Ghazali is the Chief Editor of the Journal of America (www.journalofamerica.net). He is the author of several books including Isalm & Muslims in the 21st Century published in 2017.
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