ISLAMABAD- Pakistan will spearhead the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation’s campaign against the United States’ controversial move to shift its embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv.

Senior officials at the foreign ministry told The Nation that the government aimed to raise voice against the US’ controversial decision and the Israeli aggression at all levels and put pressure on the aggressors to end defiance.

One official said: “Together with Turkey, Iran and Saudi Arabia, Pakistan will launch a full-fledged campaign to denounce the US action and Israel’s aggression.”

He added: “Pakistan, as the sole Muslim-majority nuclear power, will play its role for the rights of the Muslims. Being a super power does not mean, the US should not listen to the rest of the world.”

This week, White House officials opened the US embassy in Jerusalem, handing Israel a long-sought victory but touching off fresh clashes from outraged Palestinians. The ceremony was attended by President Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump. The move capped Trump’s pledge to shift the US embassy from Tel Aviv to offer recognition to Israel’s claim of Jerusalem as its capital.

Trump’s European allies did not welcome the move saying this could deal a serious blow to peace efforts between Israelis and Palestinians. Clashes broke out between Israeli forces and Palestinian protesters in Jerusalem as the embassy was opened. Dozens of the protesting Palestinians have been killed so far by the occupant Israeli forces.

The Arab League also called a crisis meeting and the 57-nation OIC called it an “attack on the historical, legal, natural and national rights of the Palestinian people.”

In February Trump had announced the US will officially move the embassy in Israel to Jerusalem in May. Trump had maintained in December 2017 that he was recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and would move the embassy there from Tel Aviv.

In January, Vice President Mike Pence had told the Israeli parliament that the embassy move would take place in 2019 but the Trump administration changed the schedule.

Recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is a controversial decision as the eastern part of the city - home to some of the holiest ancient sites in Judaism, Christianity and Islam - is also claimed by Palestinians as the capital of a future state.

President Trump’s decision provoked protests in the Muslim world. The OIC session in December last year had condemned the decision while the UNGA voted 128-9 to reject the plan. Only nine states, including the US and Israel, voted in favour of Washington. The other countries which supported the US were Togo, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, Marshall Islands, Guatemala and Honduras.

The US is Israel’s key ally and provides more than $3 billion annually in defence aid. Erstwhile President Barack Obama was ‘frustrated’ with Israel’s new settlements but Trump took a U-turn. Washington’s move came as Pakistan and the US are going through the historic dip in ties.

 

Amid the tension with the US, Pakistan is making efforts to make the OIC a ‘mini-United Nations’ transforming it into a more effective organization that can help resolve the issues of the Muslim-majority countries.

Hours after the Washington embassy was opened in Jerusalem, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildrim telephoned Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and extended invitation to participation in the Extraordinary Session of the OIC convened by Turkey on May 18 in Istanbul. The Extraordinary Session of the OIC was summoned on the situation arising from the massacre of Palestinians by Israeli forces.

In the UN yesterday, Pakistan strongly condemned Israel’s acts of state terrorism in Gaza, the terrorist attacks in Indonesia, Afghanistan and France. Pakistan’s permanent envoy to the UN Maleeha Lodhi called for addressing internal and external factors of extremist ideologies in different countries and regions.

Pakistan is also set to observe ‘Palestine Solidarity Day’ on May 18 on the directives Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi. Special rallies and gatherings will be organised to express solidarity with the oppressed people of Palestine and to condemn Israel’s state terrorism in Gaza.

Another official at the foreign ministry said Pakistan had been in contact with key members of the OIC after the shifting of the US embassy to Jerusalem for a joint stand on the issue.

“We (the OIC member countries) have a joint stand on the Palestine issue and the Israeli aggression. We can only pressure the US and Israel through unity. We have been seeking unity among the Muslims. There is unanimity among the Muslims on this (Palestine) issue. Our case is very strong,” he said.

Defence analyst Major General Aijaz Awan (Retd) said the US was protecting the interests of Israel at all levels. “The US has a one-point agenda of control the oil reserves of the Middle East. They (the US) want to do this through Israel,” he said.

General Awan said there was no need to shift US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. “This is a sheer conspiracy hatched by US to create unrest in the region. UN is a worst example of dictatorship. The veto power countries also reject the resolutions that are in their interest. The Muslims must get united under the OIC,” he added.