Ahead of Trump announcement, Muslim leaders warn of backlash

All have warned against moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

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December 6, 2017 17:48
4 minute read.
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Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (L) address the media at the Presidential Palace in Ankara January 12, 2015. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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Ayman Safadi, the foreign minister of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, has been actively campaigning on Twitter against US President Donald Trump's plan to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital. His is one of many voices throughout the region, among countries the Jewish state has relations with and those it doesn't, among its enemies and luke-warm friends, warning of the consequences of such a move.

On December 3, Safadi tweeted that he had spoken with his counterpart in the United States, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson “on dangerous consequences of recognizing Jerusalem as capital of Israel. Such a decision would trigger anger across Arab, Muslim worlds, fuel tension and jeopardize peace efforts.”

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Safadi had reached out to the Arab League and Organization of Islamic Cooperation, which represents 57 Muslim countries, for support against the US move, he said. He went further on December 4, tweeting that he had spoken with foreign ministers from Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Morocco, Iraq, Oman and Tunisia.

Jordan appears to see the recognition as a serious crisis. This is compounded by Israel's lack of an ambassador in Jordan since July, after an Israeli security guard shot two Jordanians.

Egypt, the other Arab country in the region at peace with Israel, has also opposed Trump’s declaration. Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry spoke with French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian on December 5 about the potential embassy move.

“The two expressed their hope that the US administration reconsiders its plan before making a final decision, due to its potentially dangerous impact on the region and the peace negotiations,” Egypt Today reported. Egyptian president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi also spoke with Trump and said the decision would “complicate” issues in the Middle East. The relatively ambiguous statement from Cairo notes that Sisi “affirmed the Egyptian position on preserving the legal status of Jerusalem within the framework of international references and relevant UN resolutions.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been a vociferous critic of Trump’s recognition. On December 5, Hurriyet reported that he said “this could go as far as cutting our diplomatic relations with Israel. You cannot take such a step.” He added that this is a “red line” for Muslims.

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King Abdullah of Jordan traveled to Ankara on Wednesday, December 6 at the height of the Jerusalem crisis with intentions of discussing Jerusalem and de-escalation zones in southern Syria.

“I would like to call out to the entire world from here and say Jerusalem is protected by UN resolutions and is a legal status and any steps that would challenge this status should be shied away from, no one has the right to play with the destinies of billions of people for personal gain, because such a move would only serve the purposes of terrorist organizations,” Erdogan said in comments on December 6 with King Abdullah.

In Lebanon, The Daily Star’s front page ran a photo of the Dome of the Rock across the entire page claiming “no offense Mr. President, Jerusalem is the capital of Palestine.” Walid Joumblatt, the Druze leader of the Progressive Socialist Party in Lebanon tweeted a petition on December 5 calling on world leaders to remember that “Jerusalem is the capital of Palestine.” He also tweeted a lyrical discussion about how moving the embassy to Jerusalem was an “abhorrence” that involved moving stones while forgetting the humans.

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman told Trump on December 5 that moving the embassy would be a dangerous step that would provoke Muslims in the region. It would have “gravely negative consequences,” the Kingdom said.  But Saudi Arabia has also been accused by commentators in the region of giving Trump a “wink and a nod,” on the Jerusalem issue. The Kingdom is trying to lead a peace push with the Palestinians at the same time.

Morocco’s King Mohammed VI, chairman of the Quds Committee in the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, warned the US that the OIC “expresses its deep concern and strong condemnation of the US decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and transfer its embassy.” The UAE’s foreign ministry also warned of “grave consequences of US recognition.” Qatar also “rejected any measure,” that would lead to recognition its foreign ministry said on December 4.

Iraq, which is recovering from years of war on Islamic State, has also expressed concern about Jerusalem. The cabinet said in a statement that it saw the decision with “utmost worry and warns of this decision’s ramifications on the stability of the region and the world.”

“Today the enemies and others have lined up against the Islamic Ummah and the Prophet of Islamc’s path [are]: US, global arrogance, [and the] Zionist regime,” tweeted Iranian Supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei. He went on to claim that the US and "Zionists” represent a new “Pharoah,” a religious reference. “It is out of despair and debility that they want to declare Al-Quds [Jerusalem] as capital of the Zionist regime.” Iranian president Hassan Rouhani also joined the condemnations. “We call on Muslim peoples to enter into a big uprising against the plot of transferring the US Embassy to Jerusalem.” Iranian allies among the Houthis in Yemen have also held a rally against the Jerusalem move.

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