U.S. President Donald Trump just fulfilled one of his presidential campaign promises by announcing that the U.S. will move its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. All nations that have embassies in Israel have them in Tel Aviv as a form of protest to Israel’s 1980 announcement of Jerusalem as the “eternal, undivided capital of Israel.”
Trump’s move today overturns several decades of U.S. policy about this. I think the U.S. Congress made a mistake in 1995 by passing The Embassy Act concerning the U.S. embassy in Israel. It says the U.S. should transfer its embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem while also providing that the president every six months can sign a waiver that allows this not to happen. Every president since then has signed the waiver every six months.
As I posted last Saturday (“Trump and Jerusalem“), this announcement by President Trump is unwise. It likely will cause some violence over the next few days, especially among Palestinians. All Arab nations are opposed to it. And I believe it will cause the U.S. to lose status as the sole peace broker for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The status of Jerusalem should be part of negotiation for a two-state solution to this conflict just as most nations and the UN have said for a long time. In that post I said, “if President Trump moves the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, he will not solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Moreover, he will lose his popularity with the Saudi ruling elite and cause demonstrations who knows where, that is, besides among Palestinians…. The U.S. should not unilaterally move its embassy to Jerusalem. Rather, that should be an element to negotiate in a possible solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. That is also the position of Palestinians, the Arab world, and the Roman Catholic Church.”
President Trump is determined to accomplish his campaign promises. But I believe many of those were misguided. Pew Research Center claimed that of those Evangelicals who voted in the presidential election last year, 81 percent of them voted for Trump. That number was challenged by the Gospel Coalition, claiming it is inaccurately too high. Nevertheless, Evangelicals played a huge role in Trump winning the election. Many Evangelicals are Christian Zionists who strongly favor the State of Israel to the detriment of Palestinians, and many Christian Zionists are against a two-state solution.As I state in my book, Palestine Is Coming: The Revival of Ancient of Philistia (1990), the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will not be solved in any other way than by a two-state solution. That is, Palestinians must have a state in the Levant. It has been unfair all of these years that Palestinians have not had a state of their own. And it should be a fully sovereign state. I believe Old Jerusalem (East Jerusalem), which contains most of the holy sites including the Temple Mount that Arabs call Haram esh-Sharif (The Noble Sanctuary) should be an international district. That was the UN position since the 1940s and that of the Roman Catholic Church as well.
I believe Jesus indicates this in his Olivet Discourse according to Luke. Therein, Jesus said, “Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled” (Luke 21.24 NRSV). The last phrase alludes to the book of Daniel, which repeatedly mentions “the end of days” or its equivalent. This phrase refers to Gentile dominion on earth and that it will end when the kingdom of God arrives in all of its glory. Christians rightly believe that will happen when Jesus returns at his so-called “second coming.” Until then, Jesus seems to say Gentiles will exercise a certain control over East Jerusalem. That has been the history of Jerusalem from 1935 until Israel fought the Six-Day War in 1967 and took control of East Jerusalem. But the UN still regards it as “occupied territory” that must be negotiated in a peace deal between the warring parties.
As for the immediate future, this U.S. decision bodes ill for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Trump announced that there should be a change because the status quo was not working. That was a foolish statement. Trump’s move could make the situation a lot worse, and he ignored that possibly in his statement.