Trump move on Jerusalem highlights Arab divisions
BEIRUT (AP) — Muslims across the Middle East warned Wednesday of disastrous consequences after President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, but in a region more divided than ever, many asked what leaders can do beyond the vehement rhetoric.
Arab powerhouses are mired in their own internal troubles, their populations tired of wars, and the days when Arab leaders could challenge the United States in a meaningful way are long gone.
Beyond the eruption of protests and potential explosion of violence, there is little the Arab world can do to challenge Trump’s move, unanimously decried by leaders.
Jerusalem, a cherished and combustible landmark, is one of the very few unifying issues in an Arab world plagued by wars and sectarianism. But even the prospect of Trump recognizing it as Israel’s capital became a reason for bickering between the Middle East’s Sunni and Shiite powerhouses, Saudi Arabia and Iran, who are engaged in a catastrophic proxy war for supremacy in the region.
“If half the funds spent by some rulers in the region to encourage terrorism, extremism, sectarianism and incitement against neighbors was spent on liberating Palestine, we wouldn’t be facing today this American egotism,” Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said in a tweet Wednesday, clearly directed at Saudi Arabia.
Criticism of Trump’s move poured in from Cairo to Tehran to Ankara to war-ravaged Syria, reflecting the anxiety over Trump’s announcement, which upends decades of U.S. policy and could ignite violent protests.
Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas said Trump has destroyed America’s credibility as a Mideast peace broker, adding in a televised statement that the decision “is a declaration of withdrawal from the role it has played in the peace process.”
Egypt, which was the first Arab nation to sign a peace treaty with Israel in 1979, denounced Trump’s decision, describing it in a Foreign Ministry statement as a violation of international resolutions on the city’s status. The statement said Egypt is worried about the impact of the U.S. move on the stability of the region and about its “extremely negative” impact on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
Jordan’s King Abdullah II, whose country like Egypt has a peace treaty with Israel, said he had expressed his concerns to Trump in a phone call Tuesday, saying that ignoring Palestinian, Muslim and Christian rights in Jerusalem would only fuel further extremism.
He spoke at a meeting with Turkish president Recep Tayyeb Erdogan, who has invited leaders of member states of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to an extraordinary meeting to discuss Jerusalem’s status next week.