Two weeks ago, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan won an important concession from President Donald Trump when, in a phone call, Erdogan coaxed a promise from his American partner to stop arming US-backed Kurdish resistance fighters in Syria. But that gesture of goodwill could be swiftly forgotten if Trump follows through with a plan to officially declare Jerusalem the capital of Israel – an act that Erdogan and many other Muslim leaders have said would be a “red line” that could force Turkey and several other Muslim states to break off diplomatic relations with Israel.
In a speech, Erdogan said the recognition of Jerusalem by the US would force Turkey to call an Organization of Islamic Cooperation summit and consider severing ties with Israel.
"Jerusalem is the red line for Muslims. Such a decision will be a heavy blow for all mankind. We will not leave it. We will fight to the end. We may even reach a severance of diplomatic relations with Israel. I once again warn the United States not to take steps that will further deepen the crisis in the region," Erdogan said.
Israel has long claimed Jerusalem as its capital. The city hosts much of the infrastructure of the Israeli government. But the ancient city – which contains the venerated Al-Aqsa mosque, the third holiest site in Islam – is also viewed as the logical capital of a Palestinian state. Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as their rightful capital, while Israeli’s claim the whole city, according to the Telegraph.
In addition, Erdogan said he would convene a summit meeting of countries of the Organization for Islamic Cooperation to oppose the US’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Most world powers recognize Tel Aviv as Israel’s capital, and no embassies are presently based in Jerusalem.
#Erdogan slams @realDonaldTrump over possible steps to relocate the US embassy to Jerusalem, says he will mobilize entire Islamic world, describes the move as a red-line for Muslims & will lead Turkey's severing ties with #Israel. pic.twitter.com/Al1LT3w4mi— Abdullah Bozkurt (@abdbozkurt) December 5, 2017
Saudi Arabia has also spoken out strongly against any possible US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital. The Kingdom and Israel have both targeted Lebanon in an anti-Iran, anti-Shia alliance of convenience. KSA expressed its "grave and deep concern" about such a possible recognition from the US. In a statement on the state-run Saudi Press Agency, the Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday that the kingdom affirms the rights of Palestinian people regarding Jerusalem, which the ministry said "cannot be changed."
The statement also warned that this step would "provoke sentiments of Muslims throughout world,” according to the Associated Press.
Prince Khalid bin Salman, Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the US, added that Trump's looming decision on the status of Jerusalem "would have a detrimental impact on the peace process and would heighten tensions in the region."
US officials have said Trump could recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital later this week. The move would represent something of a compromise: Trump had promised to move the US embassy to Jerusalem during the campaign.
Palestinians would be infuriated by the decision. Majdi Khaldi, a diplomatic adviser of President Mahmoud Abbas, said the Palestinian leadership would "stop contacts" with the US if Trump recognized Jerusalem – making Jared Kushner’s job of solving the Israel-Palestine conflict even more difficult than it already is, according to the Associated Press.
Khaldi said the US would lose credibility as a mediator in the Middle East if the US President went ahead with the move.
Early Tuesday, Husam Zomlot, the top representative of the Palestine Liberation Organization in the US, said that Washington recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital would have "catastrophic consequences" and prompt a "strategic and political" response from the PLO.
Israel captured east Jerusalem, which is home to major Muslim, Christian and Jewish holy sites, in the 1967 Middle East war. Israel quickly annexed the eastern part of the city, declaring the whole of the city as its capital in 1980 – a declaration that has not been recognized internationally. The United Nations believes that the status of the city should be decided during peace talks.
Such a decision, which US officials have said has not been finalized, would violate decades of US policy not to take a stance on the fate of Jerusalem, on the grounds it was an issue Israelis and Palestinians should negotiate and decide for themselves. Many diplomats fear recognizing Jerusalem could unleash violence throughout the region and possibly make US diplomatic missions a target.