SINGAPORE — Reacting to the U.S. move last week to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Muslim-majority countries in Asia have joined fresh calls for wider recognition of an independent Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital. Speaking in Istanbul on Wednesday, Indonesian President Joko Widodo told the 56 other members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation that the group “can serve as a motor” to persuade countries that have not recognized Palestine “to do so immediately.” The Palestinian mission to the United Nations lists 137 countries as recognizing Palestine. The level of recognition varies among those countries, as Palestine has not been granted full U.N. membership. Though some OIC members recognize Israel — including summit host Turkey — Asian countries such as Pakistan, Indonesia, Bangladesh and Malaysia do not have diplomatic relations with Israel.
TANGERANG, Indonesia — Asian governments in countries with large Muslim populations condemned U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move its embassy to the city, with the leaders of Indonesia and Malaysia speaking out against it. “Indonesia strongly condemns the United States’ unilateral recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and asks the U.S. to reconsider the decision,” President Joko Widodo said at a news conference on Thursday. With parliamentary elections scheduled for next year, Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak was more forceful. Speaking at a ruling party conference in Kuala Lumpur the same day, he said, “I call on all Muslims across the world to let your voices be heard. Make it clear that we strongly oppose any recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital for all time.”
TIBERIAS – The breeze cooling the furnace-like lakeshore funnels down between hills that are redolent of history like so much else in the Holy Land. One, an extinct volcano popularised as the “Horns of Hattin,” marks the site where Saladin defeated a Crusader army in 1187. Closer again is the cliff-face where, over a thousand years before, Jews are said to have committed mass suicide rather than be taken captive by the Romans in 67 AD, 3 years before the destruction of Jerusalem and a better-known mass suicide at the Masada. Downhill is the reed-laden lakeshore along the Sea of Galilee, where Jesus Christ walked. He may well even have preached in what is a startling discovery 200m from the water’s edge at Magdala, a town thought to be the home-place of Mary Magdalene, 5km from Tiberias and around the same from Capernaum. The discovery is a synagogue dating to the first century AD, possibly destroyed during the same Jewish revolt, and uncovered during excavations for the construction of a new Catholic pilgrimage center.
JERUSALEM – In The Great Divorce, C.S. Lewis tried to allegorise about a reality which he admitted he could not imagine, but tentatively hoped to suggest. The US-Israeli relationship, to most, seems like an unbreakable bond, and any potential divorce might be regarded as unimaginable. But when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets US President Barack Obama on July 6, they will discuss a relationship that is on the rocks, despite an annual US$2billion in aid and – in keeping with the traditional parameters of the relationship – Obama’s repeated commitment to Israel’s security. Stirring things up in advance, Michael Oren,Israel’s Ambassador to the US, spent Sunday and Monday denying media reports that he told Israeli diplomats that a “tectonic rift” was emerging between the two countries.
RAMALLAH — It might be unwitting irony, but the coffee-shop overlooking central Ramallah tips its hat to an American consumer icon, in what might otherwise be deemed an outpost of anti-Americanism. Stars and Bucks cafe in downtown Ramallah is branded with almost the same colour scheme as the better-known global chain from which it plays its name, a hue pretty close to Islamic green. Hummus and labaneh are on the menu should the customer want a more “authentic” experience than just downing a Middle East macchiato. Inside, some women wore in Western garb, others wore Islamic garb. All kept to their own tables, silent behind outsized sunglasses or tapping away on laptops. Some men lounged on sofas, puffing on shishas and just as silent as their female counterparts as they watched a World Cup football mismatch between Portugal and North Korea.
JERUSALEM – Israel’s Government last week agreed to relax its 4-year long blockade on the Gaza Strip, but the fallout from the recent flotilla incident lingers. With Israeli-US relations somewhat-frayed of late, US President Barack Obama called the move “ a step in the right direction.” Israel has come under intense international criticism for the deaths of nine Turks onboard the Mavi Marmara, one of six boats that tried to breach the naval blockade on May 31 last. Former Ulster Unionist Party leader David Trimble is one of two foreign observers to a committee set up to look into the clash — but the body has been described as a diversion by critics such as Turkey, who want an international investigation.