US move to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital draws mixed reactions in S'pore

Arab-Israeli protesters waving Palestinian flags during a demonstration in front the American Embassy in the Israeli city of Tel Aviv on Dec 12, 2017.
Arab-Israeli protesters waving Palestinian flags during a demonstration in front the American Embassy in the Israeli city of Tel Aviv on Dec 12, 2017. PHOTO: AFP

SINGAPORE - Any premature and unilateral action to alter Jerusalem's status will impede progress for a peaceful solution on the status of the city, said the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis).

Responding to US President Donald Trump's move to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital, Muis said it firmly agrees with Singapore's position on a two-state solution, with Israel and Palestine living side-by-side in peace and security.

Separately, the Singapore Islamic Scholars and Religious Teachers Association (Pergas) said it was disappointed and extremely concerned by Mr Trump's decision.

In a statement Tuesday, Pergas called the move "a step backwards in efforts to maintain regional stability" - one that could attract negative retaliation and worsen the situation in Palestine and global peace.

Mr Trump also plans to shift the US Embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, a move that ignited a firestorm of protests worldwide, with many US allies warning of possible repercussions.

Pergas warned that Mr Trump's statement could be interpreted as support for Israel's "actions and policies that continue to oppress Palestinians".

His statement may also contravene the United Nations Security Council's resolution urging Israel to stop any activities related to the building of illegal settlements on Palestinian territory, it said.

Singapore's Foreign Affairs Ministry reaffirmed last week the country's longstanding and consistent support for a two-state solution.

Pergas supports the ministry's statement, and said it believes "peace can only be achieved if the oppression and violence is stopped".

It added: "Moving forward, Pergas sincerely hopes that the unfavourable responses from the global community and the prayers of the Muslim community, will motivate President Trump to re-evaluate his statement."

Minister for Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim said Pergas' statement is a "rational response".

In a Facebook post yesterday, he reiterated Singapore's stance on the matter and said: "There has been doubt, anxiety, anger and fear in the hearts of Muslims the world over. This issue is a longstanding, complex problem that will require wisdom, trust and hard work by all parties involved."

He also called on Muslims in Singapore to "not succumb to dismay and anger".

When contacted, the National Council of Churches Singapore (NCCS) declined to comment "on an essentially political decision".

The Catholic Church and Jewish Welfare Board also declined to comment.

Senior Pastor Yang Tuck Yoong from Cornerstone Community Church, said his church welcomes Mr Trump's decision, adding that Jerusalem is the "indivisible capital of Israel and that is really non-negotiable".

He, however, stressed his church "will never advocate violence in any measure or form as the solution to the current situation in Israel".

His church, which is a member of the NCCS, has a congregation of more than 5,000.

Dr Tan Kim Huat, the academic dean of Trinity Theological College, urged representatives from various religions to give measured statements on the sensitive issue.

He said different religions must continue to build trust with each other, citing mutual visits to theological schools as a way to do so.

At the grassroots level, community leaders such as imams and pastors must work to build trust and avoid making incendiary statements, he added.

"When there is real disagreement, there can be a discussion of viewpoints if there is trust between groups," he said.