Donald Trump‘s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital has attracted condemnation from many Arab countries, and citizens have been quick to launch verbal attacks against the American president, taking into consideration the obvious truth that there’s so little they can do by diplomatic means.
It is commendable that violence has surprisingly, not been the case.
In the words of Zvi Bar’el, who writes for Haaretz, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation has a blueprint coming in response to Trump’s dramatic announcement that he would move the American embassy to Jerusalem.
Although the U.S. Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, has said it will take years for this dream to be realized, Mr. president’s formal declaration has set off a wave of denunciations, warnings and threats from one end of the Middle East to the other this week.
Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened to cut off all ties with Israel.
Sheikh al-Azhar Ahmed al-Tayeb also warned that the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital “will open the gates of hell on the West.”
Saeb Erekat said, “The United States can no longer be an honest broker in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” adding that from now on the struggle will focus on establishing a one-nation state.
The Organization of Islamic Cooperation has called an emergency meeting next week for all members of the Islamic states to consider their protests. The event will focus on examining practical ways to act against the Mr. Trump’s decision, even though it has changed nothing regarding the peace process, which has been comatose long before the declaration.
Words appear to be the only ammunition the Arab and Muslim leaders have at the moment, and negotiating among themselves in solidarity shows they’re fighting from a position of strength rather than weakness.
From the Arab states’ perspective, Trump’s announcement hasn’t changed anything in Jerusalem’s status until the U.N. and international organizations take the same stand. In that case, negotiations will no longer be necessary.
“Egypt regrets Trump’s decision,” President Sissi said in a statement.
Words from the Saudi Royal Palace read: “Although the decision doesn’t change anything and doesn’t infringe on the basic, protected rights of the Palestinian people in Jerusalem and the occupied territories it represents a major retreat in the efforts to advance peace.”
It is clear that Trump’s courage and decision won’t change anything in the terms of the Arab peace initiative, which is an integral basis to any negotiation because, if a religious war breaks out at this moment, it won’t be because of Trump’s announcement. It will most likely be because of another showy visit of Israeli politicians on the Temple Mount.
Media analysts consider threats from Egypt and Turkey as empty. The extreme scenario that both countries would severe diplomatic relations with Israel is not realistic considering that Israel and Egypt’s relations are based on military and intelligence interests that are not related to the Palestinian issue or Jerusalem’s status.
Sisi’s response that “recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital will complicate the peace process” is at most lip service to the Arab zeitgeist, one that you must admit if you know that Sisi cares more about the Palestinian reconciliation than the peace process.
There is no way Sisi would be so uninformed to think that Jerusalem’s status alone has the powers to revive or kill the peace initiatives. The reconciliation among Palestinians guarantees peaceful co-existence on the Gaza-Sinai border and denies Egypt of the disgrace of a siege on Gaza.
It is not impossible that a few noisy demonstrations might take place in Jordan and voices have already been heard in the parliament to cut off relations with Israel, but King Abdullah has good reasons to continue military cooperation with Israel, which sees eye-to-eye with him on the Iranian threat on the monarchy’s Syrian border.
Both Egypt and Jordan understand that punishing Trump by severing ties with Israel could boomerang, even with Erdogan being an erratic leader whose actions are now harder to predict.
With several accusations, suspicions and disrespect, Turkey’s president has become a major opponent to anything Trump does, and Erdogan is still feeling the pains of U.S. refusal to extradite Fethullah Gulen, the leader of the rival religious movement whom he accuses of initiating the abortive coup against him in July 2016, and the trial in New York of Iranian-Turkish businessman Reza Zarrab.
Zarrab has already incriminated the former Turkish economy minister and senior Turkish bank officials of money laundering and bypassing the sanctions on Iran; his testimony could be destructive to Erdogan if he submits documents tying the president’s family to defrauding the United States.
Erdogan is also waging an all-out war against American assistance to the Syrian Kurds, who are fighting successfully against the Islamic State.
In Zvi’s opinion, Mr. Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital proves a good opportunity for Erdogan to carry on with his war against the American government under the cover of a Muslim consensus, but whether he cuts off ties with Israel depends on the messages he receives from Saudi Arabia and Russia.
The 71-year-old American leader was very careful not to anger the Muslims in his announcement which clearly emphasized that the Temple Mount’s status would remain the same.
However, the Arab and Muslim response stems from the spirit of the statement and the very recognition of Jerusalem, which runs counter to the international convention of the past 70 years, and now makes it necessary that the UN General Assembly and Security Council reconsider their stand once again to save lives and maintain peace.
It’d be right to ask at this point if there will be enough states to isolate the United States and render Trump’s decision void.
Media reports confirm Arab leaders and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas are trying to persuade states around the world to stick to the international position, not to recognize Jerusalem and not to move their embassies to it, but this is an uphill struggle because the United States can veto any Security Council resolution, while the General Assembly resolutions don’t have teeth.
In a situation where the Arab states successfully persuades countries like Britain, France, Germany and Russia as well as Scandinavian and South American countries to oppose Trump’s decision, all mentioned countries have already expressed verbal objection, Israel will find it very difficult to live on support from marginal states like Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda, its new “friends,” and the Philippines, whose murderous president has already announced he would move the embassy to Jerusalem and assured that he will wave Israel’s flag in the capital.
There are speculations that the Arabs’ helplessness in the face of Trump’s provocation comes from the fact that Middle East has not enjoyed real peace since the Arab spring events. Although new coalitions are springing up between Arab states and some powerful nations, the Muslim-majority countries are not at peace with each other, particularly Iran, which poses a new threat.
There’s also the issue of terrorist organizations to handle, and states which once led the battle such as Egypt, Iraq and Syria have relegated themselves to the background while the new leader, Saudi Arabia, has not received it’s due recognition from sister states.
The only way Arab leaders will fight Trump’s decision on Jerusalem is to unite, negotiate among themselves, and fight, by whatever means they deem right, modest, and hopefully, effective. The world will definitely appreciate their efforts and show support, if this is done without a drop of blood.
The Holy City can be shared, of course.