Arab ministers demand reversal of Trump Jerusalem decision

Protesters, holding Islamic and Palestinian flags, chant anti-U.S. slogans during a rally against U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to recognise Jerusalem at the capital of Israel, In Istanbul's Sultanahmet district, Saturday, Dec. 9, 2017. (AP Photo/Omer Kuscu)

CAIRO (AP) — Arab foreign ministers on Saturday demanded that the United States rescind President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, calling it a “grave” development that puts Washington on the same side as the occupation and the violation of international law.

In a strongly-worded resolution long on rhetoric but short on meaningful actions, the ministers also called for the U.N. Security Council to adopt a resolution condemning Trump’s decision.

For example, the draft resolution obtained by The Associated Press did not include any punitive actions against the United States, like calling for a boycott of American products or suspending or downgrading ties with Washington. Arab diplomats said some Arab League members had wanted the resolution to include punitive measures against any country that follows the U.S. example and recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

That, according to the diplomats, was considered too radical by moderate Arab nations and eventually dropped. The diplomats spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media.

Trump’s decision, said the resolution, stripped the U.S. of its role as a “sponsor and broker” in the Middle East peace process. “It undermines efforts to bring about peace, deepens tension and will spark anger that will threaten to push the region to the edge of the abyss of violence, chaos and bloodshed.”

Trump’s announcement on Jerusalem, and his intention to move the U.S. Embassy there, triggered denunciations from around the world, with even close allies suggesting he had needlessly stirred more conflict in an already volatile region.

Jerusalem’s status lies at the core of the Israeli-Palestinians conflict, and Trump’s move was widely perceived as siding with Israel. Even small crises over Jerusalem’s status and that of the holy sites in its ancient Old City have sparked deadly bloodshed in the past.

Protests continued Saturday for the third consecutive day in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, while in Cairo the head of Egypt’s largest Christian church announced that he would not meet U.S. Vice President Mike Pence when he visits Cairo Dec. 20. A similar decision was taken Friday by the head of Cairo’s al-Azhar mosque, Sunni Islam’s top seat of learning.

The resolution adopted by the ministers reiterated that only the creation of an independent Palestinian state with east Jerusalem as its capital would end the Arab-Israeli conflict.

The ministers would meet again in a month’s time to review the situation, said the resolution.

During a 2 ½ hour session carried live on regional and local TV networks, the ministers gave speech after speech on the issue of Jerusalem. The session, which began at 9 p.m., was taken up by nearly 20 speeches, with comments ranging from blasting Trump’s decision to the need for concrete action to musings on whether fiery speeches would change anything.

“If we do nothing about this one (Trump’s decision), there will be many, many more tragedies,” warned Iraq’s foreign minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari. “No normalization (with Israel) and no compromises.”

Lebanon’s foreign minister, Gibran Bassil, suggested that there might be a silver lining in the latest crisis to hit an Arab world locked in conflict with Israel for nearly 70 years.

“Could this calamity bring us together and wake us from our slumber?” he told the meeting.

Bassil also called for an emergency Arab summit, a proposition that’s said to have been embraced by several Arab league member-states.

Earlier, Arab League chief Ahmed Aboul-Gheit and Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad Al-Maliki called on world nations to recognize the State of Palestine with east Jerusalem as its capital in response to Trump’s decision.

Aboul-Gheit said Trump’s decision “condemned” the country that took it and the administration that passed it. It also raised a question mark over Washington’s role as a peace mediator, not just in the Middle East but in the entire world.

“The decision amounts to the legalization of occupation,” said Aboul-Gheit, alluding to the occupation and later annexation of east Jerusalem by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war.

Al-Maliki called on the league to instruct its envoys in the United Nations to submit a draft resolution to the Security Council condemning Trump’s decision.

Trump’s decision, he said, “betrays its hostility and bias against the Palestinian people.”