Raja Zafarul Haq

Senate leader demands meeting of Muslim leaders to discuss Trump’s decision on Jerusalem.

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Leader of the House in Senate Raja Zafarul Haq on Wednesday called for a conference of Muslim nations to discuss US President Donald Trump’s decision to move the US Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

A day earlier, Trump had informed Arab leaders of the decision, which breaks with decades of US policy and risks fuelling further unrest in the Middle East.

President Trump is expected to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital later today. While the relocation of the embassy from Tel Aviv has been delayed for six months, Trump is expected to order his aides to begin planning such a move immediately.

Washington’s endorsement of Israel’s claim to all of Jerusalem as its capital would reverse a long-standing policy that the city’s status must be decided in negotiations with the Palestinians, who want East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.

The international community does not recognise Israeli sovereignty over the entire city, home to sites holy to Islam, Judaism and Christianity.

In a notification issued today, Senator Haq raised concerns regarding Trump’s decision, which, he noted, has disappointed Muslim countries across the world.

“The hope for peace and justice has been squashed with [Trump’s] announcement.”

Senator Haq noted that Trump’s move will increase tension in the Middle East and its repercussions will be felt beyond the region.

The senator demanded that an emergency session of the Muslim countries be convened ─ similar to the emergency meetings of the Arab League and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation called by Jordan ─ to discuss Trump’s new policy.

Washington warned of turmoil

Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas, Jordan’s King Abdullah, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al Sisi and Saudi Arabia’s King Salman have warned Washington that unilateral steps on Jerusalem would derail a fledgling US-led peace effort and unleash turmoil in the region.

In a phone call with the US president, Abbas “warned of the dangerous consequences such a decision would have to the peace process and to the peace, security and stability of the region and of the world”.

The Jordanian monarch warned that moving the embassy would obstruct US efforts to promote Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

‘A big mistake’

Israeli Intelligence Minister Israel Katz, who met US officials last week in Washington, had told Israel’s Army Radio: “My impression is that the president will recognise Jerusalem, the eternal capital of the Jewish people for 3,000 years, as the capital of the state of Israel.”

Asked if Israel was preparing for a wave of violence if Trump does so, he had said: “We are preparing for every option. Anything like that can always erupt. If Abu Mazen (Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas) will lead it in that direction, then he will be making a big mistake.”

Turkey had threatened on Tuesday to cut diplomatic ties with Israel if Trump recognises Jerusalem. “Mr Trump, Jerusalem is the red line for Muslims,” Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan had told a parliamentary meeting of his ruling party.

Senior officials said some officers in the State Department were also deeply concerned and the European Union, the Palestinian Authority, Saudi Arabia and the Arab League all warned that any such declaration would have repercussions across the region.

A US official said the consensus intelligence estimate on recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital was that it would risk triggering a backlash against Israel, and also potentially against US interests in the Middle East.

It is also likely to upset an Israeli-Palestinian peace push led by Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, in pursuit of what the US president has called the “ultimate deal”. The initiative has made little progress.