One week after President Donald Trump announced that the U.S. Embassy in Israel would be moving from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, leaders of the Muslim world who gathered at a summit in Turkey have lashed out at the controversial decision.
The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) was founded in 1969 as a body that represents the “collective voice” of the Muslim world. While speaking in front of senior officials who were attending the 57-member OIC meeting in Istanbul, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas asserted that the United States had “disqualified” itself from becoming involved in future peace talks between Israel and Palestine.
Members of the OIC issued a stern warning that the group believes “that this dangerous declaration, which aims to change the legal status of [Jerusalem], is null and void and lacks any legitimacy.”
According to a report by Al Jazeera senior political analyst Marwan Bishara, President Abbas said that the Trump administration had shown its “bias in favor of Israel.” President Abbas said that Trump’s December 6 announcement that the U.S. would formally recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel was a violation of international law.
“We shall not accept any role for the United States in the peace process, they have proven their full bias in favor of Israel. Jerusalem is and always will be the capital of Palestine.”
The Jerusalem question has long been a tenuous and volatile point of contention between Palestine and Israel, with both countries laying claim to the ancient city as their capital. However, Palestine regards East Jerusalem as their future state’s capital, whereas Israel believes that the city cannot be divided and as such has occupied the entire area.
President Abbas’ comments have thus far been the strongest response to come from the Middle East since Trump’s announcement. In support of Abbas’ statements, leaders from the group of Muslim leaders joined the call to urge the international community to “recognize the State of Palestine and East Jerusalem as its occupied capital.”
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas announces in no uncertain terms that the PA “will not accept or allow for the #US government to play a role in mediating a peace deal”. His strongest statement since @realDonaldTrump decision on #Jerusalem #OIC pic.twitter.com/nQsoh4Y73k— Jamal Elshayyal جمال (@JamalsNews) December 13, 2017
Al Jazeera also reports that the OIC issued a statement clarifying that the conglomeration remains highly committed to a “just and comprehensive peace based on the two-state solution.” In the statement, leaders also urged the United Nations to “end the Israeli occupation” of Palestine and made it clear that Trump’s administration will be held responsible for “all the consequences of not retracting from this illegal decision.”
Analyst Marwan Bishara, who was in attendance at the summit in Istanbul, said that the event made it evident that Palestinians, Arabs, and Muslims are still committed to a peaceful resolution. In the meantime, he said, “Muslim countries in addition to a whole lot of others that are allied with the Palestinian cause will recognize East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine.”
Bishara added that “those Islamic countries are ready to sever relations to punish any one country that follows in the footsteps of the United States in recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.”
The eventful summit, which was held at the OIC headquarters in Saudi Arabia, was initiated by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the wake of Trump’s announcement. Using his moment at the podium, Erdogan denounced Israel as a “state of terror” and made it clear that America’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel had been widely rebuked by significant players in the international political community.
“It is null and void,” he said. “Except Israel, no country in the world has supported [this decision].”
Meanwhile, the first Middle Eastern country to strongly condemn Donald Trump’s move is Qatar. Lulwa Al Khater, a spokeswoman for Qatar’s foreign ministry, said on Wednesday that the nation rejected Trump’s actions and called for the decision to be reversed.
Doha has powerful ties to the Arab League and the OIC, and as such, according to Khater, will work at all levels to ensure that the 1947 United Nations Partition Plan to divide historical Palestine between Jewish and Arab states would be upheld. As part of the plan, Jerusalem was placed under international sovereignty and control as a measure to ensure that all three Abrahamic religions – Christianity, Judaism, and Islam – have access to the historically significant ancient city.