Haggling for Peace

Haggling for Peace December 8, 2017

Even before the announcement was made that the U.S. Embassy in Israel will move to Jerusalem, hints in this direction had already had an impact on the State Department warning regarding travel to Israel, which in turn has required me to suspend my short term study abroad trip to Israel. I don’t object to moving the embassy in principle the way some others do. But I do object to the way it has been handled. On that subject, I think this is a great quote from Steve Wiggins:

Trump, to the cheers of evangelicals who want nothing so fervently as the end of the world, has said he’ll recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. This political move of weaponized ignorance will almost certainly lead to war in the Middle East. Another war. An illegitimate presidency leaving a frothing sea of corpses in its wake. Negotiating in this part of the world is like haggling with that street vendor for a pair of sandals. You go back and forth on the price. You act insulted and walk away. You come back and haggle some more. It’s a delicate dance. This is no place for egomaniacs who can’t understand such subtleties. Just ask the last Caligula who wanted his statue set up as a god in this city. Jerusalem is home to too many jealous gods, and those who are self-appointed divinities will only leave the city, the world, in tears.

Click through to read the rest of the post that the quote is excerpted from. Also on this theme is Gary Burge’s article in The Atlantic about Evangelical support for Israel. See too the recent post by Jeffrey Salkin, who writes:

American hard-liners, whether Jewish or Christian, treat Israel as their football team. They sit in the bleachers of America, cheering Israel on from a safe distance. “Hit ’em again — harder, harder!”

But Israel isn’t a football team. There are real lives at stake, and those lives are more important than any posturing that might win political points.

I find the current administration in Israel problematic in its approach to these matters. But the truth is that Wiggins’ analogy to haggling is just right. Bargaining in the Middle East reflects an honor-shame values system that is not familiar to most in the United States, and is something challenging to navigate even if one has learned about or lived in that context. As a Christian, I find myself wanting to hear more voices that seek to break out of the cycle of violence that reflects the fact that, if one gives ground without first inflicting harm on the other, if one approaches the negotiating table without getting the last punch in, then one loses face. But as Fred Clark observes, expecting that stance and approach to become widespread is unrealistic, at least in the short term.

Jerusalem is important to and inhabited by people of many faith traditions, languages, and ethnicities, and there is no way to either carve it into pieces or just give it to one group. There is no way to divide Israel and Palestine into two nations that perfectly reflect Jewish vs. Arab inhabitants. And there is no way to make one state and still have it provide a Jewish homeland. And so the options are to continue fighting indefinitely, or to make sacrifices to work for peace.

That said, Israel won a war and took control of land that previously belonged to Jordan. From the Jordanian perspective, I remember hearing my Jordanian tour guide say, the West Bank used to be Jordan, and now it is Israel. I also remember a Jewish American speaker talking about the fact that we don’t normally expect nations to simply give back land that they previously obtained during a war. The issue is that Israel has not integrated the inhabitants of those territories as citizens, nor given them the rights and freedom of movement that citizens would normally have.

I don’t find either a one state or a two state solution much more appealing than the other, except inasmuch as a two-state solution, for all its positive aspects, seems that it will inevitably fail to end the crisis because it will have to give Jerusalem to one nation or the other. Perhaps this step by President Trump will force there to be more discussion of a one-state solution. Because as far as I can see, there is no future for Jerusalem unless it is one that everyone in the vicinity is willing to share, and to share peacefully as full citizens who all have the right to visit and worship those sites that are important to them.

 

 

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  • Gary

    “This political move of weaponized ignorance will almost certainly lead to war in the Middle East.“

    Exaggeration. Most of the Arab World has sought the ultimate destruction of Israel for years, as official policy. Yet, they really haven’t done anything to physically help the Palestinians. An Arab nation is not going to war with Israel over moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem.

    If he means rioting in the Palestinian Territories, what else is new? That’s happened for years and years. Same thing goes for using the U.S. Embassy as a bargaining chip for peace. It’s been on the table for years and years, with no movement for peace. It is a red herring. Part of the Arab bargaining/marketplace haggling, but all bluff for nothing.

    Moving the U.S. Embassy is just accepting reality. The capital of Israel is Jerusalem. Israel determines where their capital is. That’s where the Knesset is located. Ignoring reality is living in a fantasy land. Does anyone really think Israel, no matter what political government they have, is going to give up their capital in Jerusalem? Not hardly. Time to recognize our best ally in the Middle East, without playing games that have proved unsuccessful. This has absolutely nothing to do with religion, “Evangelical” or non-Evangelical.

    • Gary

      “This has absolutely nothing to do with religion.” At least from my part.
      Since there is a lot of discussion about “Trump supporters” being evil, ignorant, or racist, I’d like to add my reference point.

      On the subject of moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, everyone has their opinion.

      If you happen to teach religion, speak Hebrew and Greek, and you give tours of Israel to students, you have one reference point.

      If you got briefed on terrorist threats on the upper floor of the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv, you worked with IDF officers on their Arrow Weapon’s System for Theater Missile Defense, and saw some successful launches of Arrow in Israel in the late 90’s, you might have a different perspective. When you trash Trump supporters, remember that many military members supported Trump for one reason – he doesn’t tie their hands behind them when they are being shot at.

      • Neko

        lol

        Straw man.

    • Neko

      Religion, evangelical and otherwise, has plenty to do with support for Trump. “Ignoring reality is living in a fantasy land.”

      • Gary

        If evangelicals are the only faction that elected Trump, then I would assume that every president in the last 20 years would have been an evangelic favorite.

        • Gary

          Plenty, maybe. Not solely.

        • Neko

          Who said only evangelicals elected Trump?

          • Gary

            I thought you implied that. If I am mistaken, I am sorry.

          • Neko

            That’s OK, but not sure why you’d think “Religion…has plenty to do with support for Trump” implies “Evangelicals are the only faction that elected Trump.” Holy non sequitur.

  • When I first read an article saying that Evangelicals actually wanted a war in the Middle East to hasten the Second Coming of Jesus, I was appalled. What a blot that concept has on the name of Christianity; to actually want death and destruction so you can go to heaven. It was hard for me to believe at the time, but I have read about it quite often since then. They also want to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem. Apparently, Jesus can’t come back until this is accomplished. Ridiculous.

    What Christian denominations never seem to understand is that there are many interpretations of what the Bible texts mean. You say they mean that; I say they mean this. Everyone thinks they believe the truth and nothing but the truth. The denominations close their eyes and ears to anything that doesn’t agree with their theology, no matter how twisted that theology is. They point the the Old Testament as proof we can have wars without a guilty conscience. But Israel was a Theocracy. God himself told them who they could fight with and what land they could take. He named many nations they were not allowed to fight with.

    We are not a Theocracy, no matter how much we wish we were (I certainly don’t). God does not have a special covenant with the United States or any other nation. He isn’t here in a cloud or fire telling us what to do. We don’t have a Urim and Thummim. We have a Bible we can read; they didn’t have one back then. Personally, I think God chose a nation to keep his laws and writings so that the whole world wouldn’t forget his existence, since all the nations were worshiping idols of wood and stone. Without Israel, all knowledge of God would have been lost. Paul says that now all believers are Israel. Our covenant is with Jesus Christ, and he said to, “Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you and pray for those who despitefully use you.”

  • When I first read an article saying that Evangelicals actually wanted a war in the Middle East to hasten the Second Coming of Jesus, I was appalled. What a blot that concept has on the name of Christianity; to actually want death and destruction so you can go to heaven. It was hard for me to believe at the time, but I have read about it quite often since then. They also want to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem. Apparently, Jesus can’t come back until this is accomplished. Ridiculous.

    What Christian denominations never seem to understand is that there are many interpretations of what the Bible texts mean. You say they mean that; I say they mean this. Everyone thinks they believe the truth and nothing but the truth. The denominations close their eyes and ears to anything that doesn’t agree with their theology, no matter how twisted that theology is. They point the the Old Testament as proof we can have wars without a guilty conscience. But Israel was a Theocracy. God himself told them who they could fight with and what land they could take. He named many nations they were not allowed to fight with.

    We are not a Theocracy, no matter how much we wish we were (I certainly don’t). God does not have a special covenant with the United States or any other nation. He isn’t here in a cloud or fire telling us what to do. We don’t have a Urim and Thummim. We have a Bible we can read; they didn’t have one back then. Personally, I think God chose a nation to keep his laws and writings so that the whole world wouldn’t forget his existence, since all the nations were worshiping idols of wood and stone. Without Israel, all knowledge of God would have been lost. Paul says that now all believers are Israel. Our covenant is with Jesus Christ, and he said to, “Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you and pray for those who despitefully use you.”