Dec 09 2017

“Friday of rage” in protest at U.S. Jerusalem decision

As expected, U.S. President Donald Trump’s announcement earlier this week to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital caused a significant backlash, resulting in a “day of rage” throughout the Middle East following Friday prayers.

It appeared to be an ill-timed and provocative announcement, with no concern about the extreme sensitivity of this issue, nor for the potential derailment of the ongoing peace process between Israel and Palestine.

It was also unclear whether he made the announcement for personal reasons, to follow through on his promise to his donors to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, or to continue following the U.S.’s agenda in the region with regard to Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, or another, to date, undefined rationale.

Kudüs

In Istanbul, approximately 20,000 protestors organized by the Human Rights and Freedoms Aid Foundation (İHH), gathered in front of the Fatih and Beyazit Mosques after Friday prayers and marched towards Saraçhane Park, voicing their anger at the announcement and shouting slogans such as, “Jerusalem belongs to Islam!”  “Muslims unite! “Killer Israel, Get out of Palestine!” "Fight, Jihad, Martyrdom!”

 “Trump wants to drown the world in blood. He has declared war on Muslims!” said Bülent Yıldırım, the chairman of İHH.

“We invite everyone to protest after the Friday prayer in their respective cities. Thousands, including the young and old, men and women and children will stand up publicly to Israel and the U.S. and show them that we will never leave Al Aqsa Mosque and are here till the end.”

US

AK Party founding member and the party’s first foreign minister, Yaşar Yakış, said he did not expect widespread, regional conflict.

“Trump needed the support of Jewish donors during the election campaign, he gave them his word to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and is now following through on his promise,” he said

“But there won’t be any significant response from regional powers.”

“President (Recep Tayyip) Erdoğan, for example, will host an Organisation of Islamic Cooperation meeting next week,” he said. “While I expect the conference to have serious discussions on the issue, no real action will be taken. Furthermore, Saudi Arabia is currently working with Israel due to perceived Iranian threats, and it has not been very vocal in its criticisms, either.”

Any conflict is likely to occur in territory controlled by the Palestinian Authority in the Gaza or West Bank, and to be put down by Israel’s police and military forces.

Former Republican People’s Party (CHP) Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary and former ambassador to Washington DC, Faruk Logoğlu, believes the move was a wrong step.

“Trump’s action is wrong politically, legally, and religiously,” he said. “Politically, because the agreements made by the United Nations have been accepted by majority of its members and all have agreed that Jerusalem has a special status.”

When Israel and Palestine entered into a peace agreement, East Jerusalem was to become Palestine’s capital,

Since 1967, East Jerusalem has been occupied by Israel. No country can take land from an occupied country legally in such circumstances.

Jerusalem is home to three faiths, all of which consider Jerusalem to be sacred.  To unilaterally give it over to one religion risks alienation from adherents of the other two religions.

Retired Ambassador Ünal Çeviköz agreed.

“The U.S. announcement regarding Jerusalem is a very wrong step in the situation we have now, and leads to much conjecture internationally,” he said. “The European Union, other European nations, and the rest of the world believe that this is a decision made in violation of United Nations agreements.”

Jonathan Spyer, a fellow at the Gloria Center and Middle East expert, believes that President Trump’s announcement was an important step.

“While Trump’s announcement may get a lot of attention, it won’t lead to any serious conflict or tension in the region,” he said. “Except for some natural reaction from regional powers, such as Iran. It may also affect, or interrupt the relationship between Turkey and Israel.”

Author Yakup Aslan said that Jerusalem had been Israel’s capital since the 1980s.

“Even if many countries haven’t accepted this formally, for all practical purposes, it has been de facto accepted,” he said. “For example, one of the best-known conflicts of the last decade, for which the ruling party in Turkey even threatened war, was the death of nine young men on the Mavi Marmara. The agreement signed between Turkey and Israel to provide compensation to these men’s families was signed in Ankara and Jerusalem.”

“What does this mean if not that Jerusalem is accepted officially as Israel’s capital?”

Academic Bekir Tank of Istanbul Business University said the true reaction would come from Muslims, not international bodies.

“Israel and its ally, the U.S., are seen regionally as occupiers, routinely violating human rights and engaging in massacres,” he said. “To this end, people believe that the US tries to ensure that its enemies are not able to unite. So, they start a new crisis before the end of the present one, such as with Al Qaida and ISIS, and support various armed militant groups in the region.”

“We will see what truly drives Trump based on how he responds to Muslim reactions.”