Updated at 5:37 p.m. ET on 2017-12-13
Malaysia and Indonesia were among Islamic countries that declared Wednesday they were recognizing East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine, while collectively condemning the United States for recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
At the end of an emergency meeting in Istanbul, the 57-nation Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) issued a communiqué calling on member-states to “impose political and economic restrictions” on countries, officials, parliaments, companies and individuals recognizing the Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem and the West Bank. The document did not detail how these restrictions might take shape.
U.S. President Donald Trump’s announcement last week about Jerusalem was “a clear desertion” of his administration’s role as a peace broker in the region, the OIC said.
It also warned it would hold the United States responsible for any repercussions over failing to revoke the decision, as demanded by the OIC’s members in the communiqué.
“The OIC calls again on those states that have not as yet recognized the State of Palestine to do so promptly such as to consolidate the foundations of the two-state solution, for justice and international legitimacy to prevail,” OIC Secretary General Yousef Al-Othaimeen said, according to a news release from the inter-governmental body that represents the Muslim world.
‘Today, I am delivering’
Trump reversed decades of U.S. policy by officially recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and saying his administration would begin a process of moving the American embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The move is expected to take years.
For decades, the status of Jerusalem – home to sites holy to Islam, Judaism and Christianity – has been a major obstacle to reaching a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.
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.
Trump’s decision fulfilled a promise he made on the electoral campaign trail.
“I have determined that it is time to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel,” the president said in a speech at the White House on Dec. 6. “While previous presidents have made this a major campaign promise, they failed to deliver. Today, I am delivering.”
Trump said his move was not intended to tip the scale in favor of Israel and that any deal involving the future of Jerusalem would have to be negotiated by the parties.
He insisted he was not taking a position on “any final status issues, including the specific boundaries of the Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem, or the resolution of contested borders.”
Najib, Jokowi speak out
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak was among leaders who addressed the meeting in Turkey.
“The decision by the U.S. is a provocation and has serious consequences on the security of the region. It has inflamed the sentiments of the Palestinians and the Muslim Ummah [community] worldwide,” Najib said.
“We fear that this is a situation waiting to explode as tensions continue to escalate in the region,” Najib told fellow leaders and representatives of OIC countries, noting that unrest and protests had broken out across the Muslim world – including in his country – in response to Trump’s announcement last week.
He said his government condemned and “totally rejected the unilateral decision by the United States.”
“Such a move undermines all efforts toward finding a comprehensive, just and durable solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.”
Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo echoed Najib’s message.
“Once again, President Trump’s recognition is unacceptable and must be strongly condemned,” Jokowi said, according to a news release from his spokesman.
“Indonesia will accompany Palestine in its struggle. In every breath of Indonesian diplomacy, we have our side with the Palestinians,” Jokowi said. “The OIC must expressly reject the unilateral recognition. The two-state solution is the only solution with East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who supports Trump’s decision, said Wednesday that he was not impressed by the OIC’s communiqué, according to Agence France-Press (AFP).
“The Palestinians would do better by recognizing reality and acting in favor of peace and not extremism,” Netanyahu said.
“They should recognize another fact concerning Jerusalem: It is not only the capital of Israel, but we also maintain respect in Jerusalem for the freedom of worship for all religions, and we are the ones in the Middle East who do this like no one else,” he added.
Razlan Rashid in Kuala Lumpur and Zahara Tiba in Jakarta contributed to this report.