Muslim world ponders what to do next
Turkey and other Muslim-majority countries seem convinced that U.S. President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel is a provocative move with dangerous consequences. While they declare the action “null and void” – as if such declarations mean anything – Muslim and non-Muslim leaders alike have been trying to control the streets in order to diffuse any potential outbursts of anti-American and anti-Israel violence.
Could Trump’s “provocative” and “ignorant” stance force the Arab world, and especially the Palestinians, to agree to a resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict in line with the expectations of Zionists and Evangelists? Or could the move ignite a third Intifada, the signs of which have already been seen on the streets of Jerusalem and elsewhere in the West Bank? Hamas’ leader Ismail Haniyeh has already called on the Palestinian people to rise up in a new intifada.
It could be argued that the refusal of local political and religious leaders to meet with U.S. Vice President Mike Pence on his planned trip to the region is a decent indicator of how wrong Trump was in some very basic calculations.
If, on the other hand, over the next few months the streets can be calmed down and a new Middle East initiative based on a two-state solution can be launched, the Jerusalem Act could serve as a catalyst for progress towards peace. The skeptics would be proved wrong.
The Saudis were allegedly involved in Trump’s Jerusalem Act. This might be true. There ought to be some difference between discreet diplomacy and the megaphone diplomacy that is becoming increasingly prevalent in the Middle East.
Public expectations - together with decades of mythologizing - might well have curtailed public discussion on certain key issues. Is that because diplomacy should be done secretly? But in the Jerusalem Act Washington has recognized the entire holy city as the Israeli capital. This clearly differs from Russia’s recognition of West Jerusalem as the Israeli capital last summer. To what extent would the Israeli leadership compromise on Jerusalem if a deal can be reached allowing the holy city to serve as capital of both states?
As such, the Jerusalem Act has poisoned – rather than enhanced - peace efforts. Why should Israel compromise on Jerusalem or concede territory to appease Palestinian demands? The most powerful country in the world has just recognized its occupied territories, legitimizing its illegitimate settlements on Palestinian soil. On what remaining pillar can a peace agreement be reached?
“Recognized or not Jerusalem was, is and will be the eternal capital of Israel.” This message, delivered by Trump’s ignorant administration, could turn the entire region, if not the world, into an apocalyptic inferno. A comment is currently doing the rounds of social media: “If for nothing else, Donald Trump will make history as the novice, ignorant, impertinent and vulgar American president who started World War III.”
The Muslim world has been pondering over what to do. The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) was called by term president Turkey to an emergency summit in Istanbul on Dec. 13. Arab League foreign ministers convened an emergency session in Cairo on Dec. 9.
The Arabs and other Muslim-majority nations have made a concerted effort to raise a firm voice against the development. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said he called the summit meeting to produce a unified reaction against what he described as an “unacceptable conspiracy.” Arab foreign ministers, meanwhile, described Trump’s Jerusalem Act as a “dangerous violation of international law.”
Although Muslim leaders might have initiated some sort of “damage limitation” effort, the Jerusalem Act represents a clear violation of U.N. resolutions on the holy city by a permanent member of the Security Council. An unprecedented act of humiliation, it challenges the very existence of the world body.