The leaders of Muslim-majority Indonesia, Malaysia and Bangladesh on Thursday condemned U.S. President Donald Trump’s official recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and his announcement that the United States will move its embassy to the holy city from Tel Aviv.
The major shift in U.S. policy on the thorny issue of Jerusalem, which the American president announced Wednesday, shocked the Muslim world, which has rallied around the cause of Palestinian statehood. The move would destabilize peace efforts as well foment potential violence and terrorism, leaders and observers in Asia said.
“Indonesia strongly condemns the one-sided claim made by the U.S. in recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital city. We urge the U.S. to reconsider the decision,” Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo said Thursday.
“Such unilateral recognition has violated United Nations’ Security Council and General Assembly’s resolutions where the United States is a member. This can shake the stability of world security,” added the leader of the world’s largest Muslim-majority country.
Move could fan radicalism: observers
In announcing the decision at the White House, Trump said the United States would support a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinian state regarding the holy land for three major religions: Christianity, Judaism and Islam.
“Above all, our greatest hope is for peace, the universal yearning in every human soul. With today’s action, I reaffirm my administration’s longstanding commitment to a future of peace and security for the region,” Trump said.
Israel claims all of Jerusalem as its capital while Palestinians see East Jerusalem as their future state capital. Muslims worldwide see the Al-Aqsa mosque, which sits on Judaism’s holiest site, the Temple Mount, as Islam’s third-holiest site.
Fifty years ago in June 1967, Israel seized East Jerusalem, the West Bank and other territories as it defeated the militaries of three neighboring Arab nations – Jordan, Egypt and Syria – in the Six-Day War.
In 1995, the U.S. congress adopted the Jerusalem Embassy Relocation Act, calling for the embassy to move there from Tel Aviv by 1999. Prior to Wednesday’s announcement, presidents including Trump had issued waivers every six months to keep the embassy in place, citing national security interests.
“It will make the world situation worse and lead to an endless conflict,” said Helmy Faishal Zaini, general secretary of Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), Indonesia’s Muslim largest organization, reacting to Trump’s announcement.
“The decision will encourage radicalization among Muslims in reaction to the U.S.-created radicalism and global injustice,” said another prominent Indonesian Muslim leader, Din Syamsuddin, chairman of the Indonesia-Palestine Friendship Initiative (PPIP)
Anti-American protests over the announcement were expected following Friday prayers in Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur, and the U.S. embassy in the Malaysian capital warned its citizens to be cautious.
Act of ‘aggression’ against Islam: Najib
In Kuala Lumpur on Thursday, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak spoke out against Trump’s announcement during a speech to the ruling United Malays National Party’s annual assembly.
“This week, we are shocked to hear the plan of the United States of America to recognize one of the three Holy Lands for the Muslim Ummah [community]… as the capital of Israel, I’m confident, we as Muslims cannot accept this,” Najib said.
“We must voice our stand clearly so that the world listens to the voice of the Muslims in Malaysia, that we reject forever and in the harshest terms the suggestion to make Baitul Maqdis [Al-Aqsa mosque] as the capital of Israel.”
Najib’s government also issued a statement about the U.S. announcement.
“It would have grave repercussions not only towards the security and stability of the region, but would inflame sentiments, making efforts to combat terrorism all the more difficult,” the statement said. It added that Malaysia recognizes the issue of Jerusalem at the core of the Palestinian cause.
“Any attempts to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, establishing or transferring any diplomatic mission to the city, are considered aggression not only against the Arab and Islamic Ummah, but are also infringements on the rights of Muslims and Christians alike,” the statement said.
In Bangladesh, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina joined a chorus from the Muslim world condemning and questioning the wisdom of the American president’s move.
“I think the Islamic world would not accept the suo moto [unilateral] announcement made by the U.S. president,” Hasina said. “I would urge all Muslim countries and the Islamic Ummah to get united so that the Palestinians can guarantee their just rights.”
‘An opportunity for a lasting peace’
Trump’s decision, however, has the official support of his secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, who has been at odds with the president over key areas of American foreign policy, according to U.S. media reports.
“President Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital aligns U.S. presence with the reality that Jerusalem is home to Israel’s legislature, Supreme Court, President’s office, and Prime Minister‘s office,” Tillerson said in a statement.
“We have consulted with many friends, partners, and allies in advance of the president making his decision. We firmly believe there is an opportunity for a lasting peace.”
Ismira Lutfia Tisnadibrata in Jakarta, N. Natha in Kuala Lumpur and Kamran Reza Chowdhury in Dhaka contributed to this report.