By Eshat Firat, Ali Murat Alhas
This Friday's sermon at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque blasted last week’s decision by U.S. President Donald Trump to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital.
"A hundred years have passed since the Balfour declaration, by which [Palestinian] land was given by those who did not possess it to those who did not deserve it,” Al-Aqsa imam Sheikh Ismael Nawahda said.
“Now, on the 50th anniversary of the [Israeli] occupation of Jerusalem, the U.S. administration has recognized this holy land [i.e., Jerusalem] as Israel's capital in blatant disregard for Palestinian and Muslim rights," he added.
Asserting that Jerusalem would always belong to Muslims and Arabs, he declared: "We hope the countries that have reacted [negatively] to the U.S. decision… will take concrete steps to reverse it.”
Nawahda went on to describe Jerusalem as “the key to peace and war” in the region.
Last Wednesday, Trump announced his decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and relocate the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to the holy city.
The shift in Washington’s longstanding Middle East policy sparked angry demonstrations in the Palestinian territories and in several Muslim countries.
In response to the controversial U.S. move, an extraordinary summit of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) -- held Wednesday in Istanbul -- formally recognized East Jerusalem as Palestine’s capital.
Jerusalem remains at the heart of the Israel-Palestine conflict, with Palestinians hoping that East Jerusalem -- now occupied by Israel -- might eventually serve as the capital of a Palestinian state.
In April, Russia recognized West Jerusalem as Israel's capital, voicing hope that the city's eastern half might eventually serve as the capital of an independent Palestine.
Notably, in his announcement last week, Trump stressed that the “specific boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem” should be decided in final-status talks between the two sides.