Setting aside their differences, the six nations that make up the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) collectively condemned Israel’s targeting of unarmed Palestinian protesters and the United States’ relocation of its embassy to Jerusalem, which sparked the latest round of violence.
GCC members reiterated their condemnation during an emergency Arab League meeting on May 17 chaired by Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir.
“We are meeting today in the backdrop of the recent developments in the occupied Palestinian territories, targeting Palestinian civilians by the occupation forces and the transfer of US embassy to Jerusalem,” said Jubeir.
“The kingdom has already warned of the serious consequences of this unjustified step as it offends the feelings of Muslims around the world,” he said, adding that the kingdom would help the Palestinian people until they establish their own independent state with East Jerusalem as its capital
UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash expressed similar sentiments, warning of the dangerous consequences of the US decision.
“While we express our strong condemnation of using the excessive force by the Israeli occupation against unarmed Palestinians who exercise their right and demand their legitimate rights, we warn against the negative repercussions of such a dangerous escalation and we call for an international probe to hold those responsible for this massacre accountable,” said Gargash, adding that the US move had presented more obstacles to the peace process.
Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have been protesting for seven weeks as part of the Great March of Return campaign and in anticipation of the US’s relocation of its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. On May 14, the day the US opened its new embassy in Jerusalem, Israeli forces killed at least 60 unarmed Palestinian protesters gathered near the Gaza border.
In response, officials from the UAE, the Palestinian territories and Kuwait requested an emergency session at the UN Security Council, and UN human rights chief Zeid al-Hussein backed calls for inquiry over the deaths in Gaza.
Saudi Arabia’s cabinet denounced the US decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem and the killing of the dozens of protesters by Israeli authorities.
“Saudi Arabia strongly condemns the targeting of unarmed civilians by the forces of Israeli occupation, leaving dozens dead and injured,” said a statement from the Foreign Ministry.
“The international community must shoulder its responsibilities to stop violence and protect the brotherly Palestinian people,” the statement added.
Bahrain’s Shura Council also condemned Israel’s response, calling authorities’ use of force “unjustified and excessive.”
Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammed al-Thani also spoke out against the events in Gaza.
Oman issued a statement expressing solidarity with the people of Gaza, while also calling for “the Palestinian people to establish an independent state” along the 1967 borders with Jerusalem as its capital, according to Oman Daily website.
Kuwait, through its UN representative, called on the international community to recognise an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital during the emergency UN Security Council meeting.
“We are concerned about policies, measures and actions taken unilaterally by Israel, the occupying power, which aims at changing the reality on the occupied territory, topped with the continuation and the expansion of settlement activities which are illegal measures and constitute a flagrant violation of Security Council resolutions and international law, mainly resolution 2334,” Kuwait’s ambassador to the UN, Mansour al-Otaibi, said.
The latest series of events is a major setback for the peace process, especially the Arab peace initiative, the brainchild of the late Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, who unveiled the plan while crown prince in 2002.
The initiative calls for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the normalisation of ties between 57 Arab and Islamic countries and Israel. The plan is predicated on Israel withdrawing from Arab lands occupied during the 1967 war, as well as a just settlement to the Palestinian refugee issue based on UN General Assembly Resolution 194.
This article was originally published in The Arab Weekly.