December 2017

Prime Minister Netanyahu on Jerusalem as the capital of Israel

Jerusalem at the Center

12 11 2017

Jerusalem is very important both historically and prophetically. Zechariah 12:3 asserts, Jerusalem will become “a very heavy stone for all peoples.” The marginal note in the NKJV Study Bible says on this verse: “ Jerusalem is compared to a heavy stone that brings injury to anyone who tries to remove it from its place.”

For years, US policy has been to avoid declaring Jerusalem the capital of Israel in the absence of an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal; remember the Palestinians also claim Jerusalem as their capital. For 68 years the State Department insisted on pretending that Israel has no capital. This position was a fundamental component of an overall US Middle East policy—this was done so as not to upset the Arab world. President Trump initiated a new course for US Middle East policy entrenched in reality for the first time since 1948.

Recognizing Jerusalem as the capital has also transferred the United States attention to relocating the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, the move would be seen as buttressing Israeli sovereignty over the city.

Moving the embassy hazards setting off diplomatic chaos with Arab states (such as Saudi Arabia and Jordan), which could include far-reaching protests outside US diplomatic offices and embassies around the world. There was widespread condemnation from the Arab world after Trump’s decision was declared.

Approximately 852,000 people live in Jerusalem — 38% are Arab and 60% are Jewish; the Jewish population includes around 200,000 ultra-Orthodox Jews, with the rest split mostly between religious Zionist and secular Jews. Of the city’s Arab population, 96% is Muslim; the other 4% is Christian.

The US has never had its embassy in Jerusalem. It has always been in Tel Aviv, but in 1989, Israel began leasing to the America a plot of land in Jerusalem for a new embassy. To this day, the plot has not been developed, and it remains an empty field. The 99-year lease cost $1 per year. In 1995, the US Congress passed a law requiring America to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Supporters said the US should honor Israel’s choice of Jerusalem as its capital, and acknowledge it openly. So why have presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama refused to move the embassy; they were timid about upsetting the Arab world, so they never followed through with the intent. President Obama never seriously considered moving the embassy.

Palestinian leaders are enraged, claiming that an embassy move to Jerusalem would be a violation of international law, and a huge setback to peace prospects. President Mahmoud Abbas has turned to other world leaders, including Russian President Vladimir Putin and Jordan’s King Abdullah, to help pressure Trump to change his mind. The Palestine Liberation Organization has suggested it would cancel all agreements between Israelis and Palestinians, should the move take place.

We will be watching Jordan’s reaction to the announcement. Jordan, where Palestinians make up nearly half the population, will have to deal with the consequence from Jerusalem’s new status. Jordanians will take to the streets to try to force their king to break the country’s 1994 peace treaty with Israel. At the same time, the powerful Jordanian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood will exploit the President’s announcement to gather strength in Jordan’s parliament seeking to erode the monarchy’s political strength.

Jerusalem is described in the biblical Book of Zechariah as “ a cup of drunkenness to all the surrounding peoples” (12:2). This news story is a fire that will not die.

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