Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will use a special meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in Istanbul on Wednesday to discuss the American recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, as a way to better position himself domestically and in the Muslim world, a senior Israeli diplomatic official said on Tuesday.
According to the official, Erdogan is following a pattern of behavior he used in 2010 following the MV Mavi Marmara protest ship incident, in which he rode his confrontational approach to Israel to a position of great popularity in the Arab and Muslim world.
Erdogan – whose rhetoric over the Jerusalem issue throughout the last week has been vitriolic – is convening an “extraordinary meeting” of the OIC to discuss US President Donald Trump’s recent decision, in the hopes of issuing a joint Muslim reaction to it.
Turkey is currently the president of the 57-member organization that includes Muslim countries on four continents, and Erdogan is scheduled to address both the opening and closing sessions of Wednesday’s summit, taking advantage of the gathering to cast himself in the role of the Muslim defender of Jerusalem.
Erdogan has accused the United States of ignoring Palestinian claims to east Jerusalem and “trampling on international law.”
Turkey’s Erdogan says US is a partner in bloodshed with Jerusalem move, December 11, 2017
Some 22 heads of state or government are expected to attend, including those from Iran, Malaysia, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Sudan, Somalia and Azerbaijan, as well as Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Jordan’s King Abdullah II. In addition, some 25 foreign ministers, including from Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Morocco and Kazakhstan, are expected to attend. Saudi Arabia will be represented by its Islamic affairs minister.
In addition to Egypt and Jordan with which Israel has peace agreements, it also has strong ties with a few countries in the OIC, such as Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu was quoted in Hurriyet as saying that some Arab countries have not taken a hard enough line on this issue because Trump “scares them.”
“Some Arab countries have shown very weak responses [on Jerusalem],” Cavusoglu said. “It seems some countries are very timid of the United States.”
“If we don’t defend Jerusalem today, when will we defend it?” he asked. “If we don’t defend Jerusalem, one of the three most sacred places of Islam, what will we defend?”
Cavusoglu also said, “We will make a call for countries that have so far not recognized Palestine to do so now. We want the United States to turn back from its mistake.”
The hard-line Turkish paper Yeni Safak, known for its strong support of Erdogan and his Justice and Development (AK) Party, wrote that the conference is expected to go beyond messages of condemnation and take action to reverse the US decision.
Among the “possible decision that the OIC could take,” the paper wrote, are declaring that Trump’s decision is “null and void,” and taking urgent “initiatives to halt its implementation.”
The paper included the following as among the possible “initiatives”: ending joint political military and economic projects with Israel; calling on all member states to cut their economic and political ties with Israel; calling for the OIC countries to withdraw their ambassadors from the US for “consultations”; freezing or ending relations with countries that “accept Israel’s occupation of Jerusalem”; declaring that the US should no longer be considered an interlocutor in the Mideast peace process; closing airspace to Israeli aircraft; and ending intelligence cooperation with both the US and Israel.