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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 September 2018

Tens of thousands protest in Indonesia against US Jerusalem move

The UN is considering a draft resolution that any change to the status of Jerusalem will have no legal effect and must be reversed

Indonesian muslim activists hold placards and wave Palestine national flags during a protest against US president Donald Trump's decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Adi Weda / EPA
Indonesian muslim activists hold placards and wave Palestine national flags during a protest against US president Donald Trump's decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Adi Weda / EPA

Tens of thousands of people in Indonesia protested on Sunday against US president Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, the latest show of support for the Palestinians in the country with the world’s largest Muslim population.

Meanwhile, the UN Security Council is considering a draft resolution that any change to the status of Jerusalem — a city considered holy by Muslims, Christians and Jews — will have no legal effect and must be reversed.

Indonesia’s top Islamic authority, Indonesian Ulema Council, supported by the government and a number of other Islamic organisations organised the rally, where 80,000 protesters gathered at the National Monument waving the Palestinian flag and banners reading “Free Palestine”.

"This is my solidarity as a Muslim to my fellow Muslim brothers and sisters in Palestine ... the Al Aqsa mosque, a historical mosque for Muslims, is there [in Jerusalem],” said Hermawati, from the nearby city of Bogor, who like many Indonesians goes by one name, reported the Agence France-Presse.

The demonstrators, most of whom were dressed in white, were demanding that the US change its decision.

Read more: Trump cannot ignore the region's reaction to his Jerusalem decision

Indonesian government officials were among those at the protest site just a few metres from the US embassy, which was cordoned off behind coils of razor wire.

"Isn't it the government's job to work on the aspiration of the majority of Indonesians? And the government has tried its best so Palestine can achieve its rights and independence," religious affairs minister Lukman Hakim Saifuddin said at the rally.

Indonesia has condemned Mr Trump's decision, with president Joko Widodo joining other world Islamic leaders last Wednesday in an emergency summit of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Istanbul.

Even though the protest was peaceful, rows of police behind coils of barbed wire held back the crowd outside the US embassy. About 20,000 security personally were at the rally, a police spokesman said, according to Reuters.

"We urge all countries to reject the unilateral and illegal decision of president Donald Trump to make Jerusalem Israel's capital," Anwar Abbas, the secretary general of the Indonesian Ulema Council, told the crowd.

"We call on all Indonesian people to boycott US and Israel products in this country" if Mr Trump does not reverse his decision, Mr Abbas said, reading from a petition, which is intended to be handed over to the US ambassador in Indonesia.

The leaders urged world powers to recognise occupied East Jerusalem as the capital of the "State of Palestine" and declared Mr Trump's decision "null and void legally".

The status of the holy city is a sensitive issue in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in which Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas said the US has no role if it does not reverse its Jerusalem decision.

Egypt circulated a UN draft text on the Jerusalem issue on Saturday, and diplomats said the council could vote on the proposed measure as early as Monday.

The draft resolution obtained by AFP stresses that Jerusalem is an issue "to be resolved through negotiations" and expresses "deep regret at recent decisions concerning the status of Jerusalem”, without specifically mentioning Mr Trump's move, which sparked outrages and protests across the Middle East.

"Any decisions and actions which purport to have altered the character, status or demographic composition of the Holy City of Jerusalem have no legal effect, are null and void and must be rescinded," it said.

Diplomats said they expected the US to use its veto power to block the measure while most, if not all, of the 14 other council members were expected to back the draft resolution.

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Read more:

Arab League: Moving Israel's US embassy will boost 'fanaticism'

Saudi Arabia says US Jerusalem move to hurt peace process

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The draft resolution calls on all countries to refrain from opening embassies in Jerusalem, reflecting concerns that other governments could follow the US lead.

It demands that all member-states not recognise any actions that are contrary to UN resolutions on the status of the city.

Several UN resolutions call on Israel to withdraw from territory seized during the 1967 war and have reaffirmed the need to end the occupation of that land.

The Palestinians had sought a toughly-worded draft resolution that would have directly called on the US administration to scrap its decision.

But some US allies on the council such as Britain, France, Egypt, Japan and Ukraine were reluctant to be too hard-hitting and insisted that the proposed measure should reaffirm the position enshrined in current resolutions, diplomats said.

Backed by Muslim countries, the Palestinians are expected to turn to the UN General Assembly to adopt a resolution rejecting the US decision, if, as expected, the measure is vetoed by the US at the council.

Aside from the US, Britain, China, France and Russia can veto any resolution presented at the council, which requires nine votes for adoption.

US vice president Mike Pence will visit Jerusalem on Wednesday, wading into the crisis over one of the most controversial issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Israel sees the entire city as its undivided capital. The Palestinians want the eastern sector, which the international community regards as annexed by Israel in 1967, as the capital of their future state.

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