WAFA Palestine News and Information Agency

Arab League Hosts High-Level Jerusalem Support Conference in Cairo

A high-level international conference organized by the Arab League and the Palestinian National Authority in support of Jerusalem was held at the Arab League headquarters in Cairo on Sunday, February 12, 2023. The conference was held with Arab, regional, and international participation, based on a decision at the 31st Arab Summit held in Algeria in November 2022. Dozens of leaders and senior officials from Arab and Islamic countries attended.

The conference comes in the wake of escalating tensions and deadly violence in the city and beyond with the recent rise to power of the new extremist right-wing Israeli government. Its aim was to unify the Arab position and seek ways to support Palestinians in the city by financing development and investment projects proposed by the Palestinian National Authority.

“The timing of this conference should not escape anyone,” Palestinian Minister of Jerusalem Affairs Fadi al-Hidmi reportedly told Palestine TV in his media appearances at the sidelines of the conference.

Al-Hidmi was referring to the recent calls by Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir to carry out a military operation, “Defensive Shield 2,” in East Jerusalem.1 The Palestinian side of the city was occupied by Israel and unilaterally de facto annexed on June 28, 1967.

The Cairo conference, “In Support of Jerusalem,” heard strong statements from King Abdullah of Jordan, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, and Egyptian President Abdel Fatah el-Sisi.

“The timing of this conference should not escape anyone.”

Fadi al-Hidmi, Palestinian Minister of Jerusalem Affairs

King Abdullah of Jordan, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, and Egyptian President Abdel Fatah el-Sisi

Speakers at the Arab League conference, “In Support of Jerusalem,” in Cairo included King Abdullah of Jordan, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, and Egyptian President Abdel Fatah el-Sisi, all shown seated here on February 12, 2023.


WAFA Palestine News and Information Agency

King Abdullah said that “Jerusalem is close to the hearts of all Arabs”2 and connected the stalled peace talks with the Israeli violations of al-Aqsa. “We reiterate that preserving the prospects of peace on the basis of the two state-solution, demands ceasing all Israeli violations, incursions into Al Aqsa Mosque/al-Haram al-Sharif, and attempts for temporal and spatial division,”3 the king said.

Previously, on March 31, 2013, Palestinian leader Abbas and Jordan’s King Abdullah signed the “Agreement on the defense of Jerusalem and the Holy Sites,” an important document in which the Palestinian leader also confirmed Jordan’s leading role in the protection and management of holy places in Jerusalem.4

At the Cairo conference, the Palestinian president provided the overall context of the political situation in the entire occupied territories including East Jerusalem. Abbas said, “Al-Quds [Jerusalem] is in need of the support of Arab and Islamic countries,” adding, “it is a religious duty and vital at the humanitarian and national levels.”5

Abbas also vowed that “The State of Palestine will continue going to international courts and organizations to protect our people’s legitimate rights.”6

El-Sisi emphasized that Egypt supports the Hashemite custodianship of the holy places in the city of Jerusalem:

Egypt reaffirms its unwavering position regarding the rejection and condemnation of any Israeli measures to change the existing historical and legal status of Jerusalem and its sanctities. It also emphasizes the Hashemite Custodianship of Islamic and Christian holy sites in the city of Jerusalem, including the entire complex of Al-Aqsa Mosque, considering it a place of worship exclusively for Muslims.

Egypt warns once again of the severe consequences that may result from a violation of this or from any attempt to pre-empt or enforce a fait accompli that would negatively affect the prospects of the final status negotiations between the Palestinian and Israeli sides.7

The audience listens attentively at the Arab League conference, "In Support of Jerusalem."

The audience listens attentively to speakers at the Arab League conference, “In Support of Jerusalem,” in Cairo on February 12, 2023.


WAFA Palestine News and Information Agency

Situation on the Ground in the City

Minister al-Hidmi detailed to those gathered in Cairo the depth of the problems facing Jerusalemites. He told the conferees that Israeli settlement efforts aim to add 25,000 new housing units, 9,000 additional units at the runway and lands that belonged to the Jerusalem airport often referred to as Qalandiya airport, and a further 4,000 units in the strategic E1 area, which would effectively cut off any chance for contiguity between the north and south of the Palestinian West Bank.

In referring to al-Aqsa Mosque, al-Hidmi gave a detailed report on the continued Israeli aggression including the fact that in 2022, 40,000 Israeli Jews entered the mosque without authorization or permission or coordinating as visitors in the usual way. In the same year, orders were issued to 800 Palestinians barring them entry for different periods of time to Islam’s third holiest mosque.

Al-Hidmi also told Arab and international leaders gathered in Cairo that Palestinians desperately need to build 20,000 apartments for Palestinians in Jerusalem.

Ways to Support Jerusalemites

The PNA representatives came to the conference prepared with 82 different projects that Arabs and others can support which will contribute to the steadfastness (sumud) of Jerusalemites. The projects, which al-Hidmi told Jerusalem Story can be quickly implemented, include key sectors such as education, health, housing, tourism, and youth.

“They also include projects supporting small and medium-sized projects, support to hospitals and to the infrastructure need to help support Jerusalemites,” al-Hidmi said.

Final Conference Communiqué

The 19-item communiqué issued upon the conference’s conclusion tackled the key issues regarding al-Aqsa, Jerusalem, and the escalating Israeli violations in the occupied territories. The communiqué called for the protection of the people of Palestine and for the speedy decision-making of the International Court of Justice investigation into Palestinian complaints of Israeli war crimes.

Below are the 7 foremost issues extracted verbatim from the final 19-point communiqué on Jerusalem as it was reported by the Egyptian State Information Service:

1 – Palestine remains the central Arab cause, with al Quds in its heart. Just and comprehensive peace could only be achieved in the Middle East after the Palestinian people regain their lawful, inalienable rights, atop of which [are] the right of return and state independence on the pre-1967 lands, with East Jerusalem as its capital.

2 – A call for the world community to act to protect the Palestinian people in the face of continued Israeli aggression, including settlement activities and the apartheid regime. The UN Security Council is urged to live up to its responsibilities to implement resolutions related to the Palestinian cause: 242, 338, 1515, and 2334.

3 – All Israeli policies and plans are illegal and aim to legitimize the false Israeli annexation, distort the Arab identity of East Jerusalem and change the demographic makeup of the holy city.

4 – A call for the protection of all Muslim and Christian sanctuaries in East Jerusalem, and action to halt Israeli attempts meant to change the historical and legal status quo in the city and Al Aqsa Mosque.

5 – A call for all countries to act to implement UNESCO resolutions that stress that Al Aqsa Mosque is a purely Islamic place of worship for Muslims only and an integral part of the World Heritage Sites that are under the sovereignty of the State of Palestine.

6 – A call for the world community to act to immediately stop Israeli settlement projects in East Jerusalem, such as the “Silicon Valley” and the “City of David”, which are harmful to the cultural landscape of the city.

7 – Rejection of Israel’s systematic policy of distorting and changing the Arab and Muslim identity of East Jerusalem through the forced closure of national and cultural Palestinian institutions and introducing of falsified school curricula.8

Hope Tempered with Skeptical Realism

Not all Palestinian Jerusalemites were convinced of the conference’s value, however. Writing in Al Jazeera, for example, journalist Jalal Abukhater expressed the opinion that

for many of us Jerusalemites, this new Arab League initiative is invoking more scepticism than anything else. The last time Jerusalem was included in the title of an Arab League get-together—the so-called Jerusalem Summit of 2018—not much changed for us on the ground.

The summit issued a strongly worded communique, rejecting United States recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and the transfer of its embassy to the occupied city. Just two years later, however, several Arab nations signed normalisation deals with that same Israel, sponsored by that same US . . .

Indeed, Jerusalem does need assistance, including financial support. The PA is hoping that the conference in Cairo will help raise much-needed funds to support the educational and healthcare sectors and give the local economy a much-needed boost of foreign investment.

But any such support—if it indeed materializes—would only bring limited, temporary relief to Jerusalemites. Our city suffers from occupation and apartheid. We need action on the political front and we need it immediately. Strongly-worded condemnation and communiques will not do.

Indeed, we Jerusalemites are known for our “sumoud” (steadfastness) and it should be celebrated at international forums like the Arab League. But under the oppression of a merciless occupier, we are getting near the limits of our resilience.9




Jerusalem Post Staff, “Ben-Gvir to Police: Prepare for ‘Defensive Shield 2’ in East Jerusalem,” Jerusalem Post, February 10, 2023.


“King at Jerusalem Conference.”


Samy Magdy, “Arab Leaders Warn Israeli Threaten Regional Turmoil,” The Hill, February 12, 2023.


President El-Sisi’s Speech at a High-Level Conference in Support of Jerusalem,” website of the Presidency of the Arab Republic of Egypt, February 12, 2023. See also “Sisi Reiterates.”


Participants in Jerusalem Conf. Issue Final Communiqué,” Egypt State Information Service, February 12, 2023.


Jalal Abukhater, “Jerusalem’s Palestinians Need More than Arab Condemnations,” Al Jazeera, February 12, 2023.

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