Much of the world disagreed with President Trump’s decision to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Israel’s capital, Jerusalem. In the face of such overwhelming opposition, it’s worth dissecting the arguments used to figure out who’s right in this debate.
From a purely US perspective, Trump was merely fulfilling Americans’ wishes as codified in the 1995 Jerusalem Law passed by Congress and signed into law by President Bill Clinton. This law affirms that the American people recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and that consequently the US Embassy should be moved there.
It is to be noted then that political opposition to the implementation of the Jerusalem Law from both within and without the United States stems from two positions.
First, opponents have long claimed a security risk exists thus making the move unwise. This idea was even added to the Jerusalem Law, and used as a six-month waiver by successive presidents to delay the move. But are we really to believe there has been a valid security risk for the United States in making this move? Or is the United States going to allow the threat of terrorism to dictate its foreign policy? Yes, Hamas attempted mass violence at Israel’s southern border in response to the move, but none of that can be considered a serious security threat, especially not to US interests. This position has already been proved false.
Second, those who fought the move claimed it would harm any “final status agreement” on Jerusalem between Israel and the Palestinians. But this position makes no sense unless you support the outrageous idea that no part of Jerusalem should remain under Israeli sovereignty. Or, put another way, even if you did support a divided Jerusalem, surely you would still expect a US Embassy to be in the city—unless other sinister motives are at play.
Those who oppose Jewish sovereignty over Jerusalem, rejecting Trump’s recognition of the city as Israel’s capital, are usually doing so because they support the Palestinian claim to at least half the city. The problem is that this claim has no historical justification as the city was formerly part of the Ottoman Turkish Empire for hundreds of years and then illegally occupied by the Jordanians from 1948 to 1967 when it was liberated by Israel. During Jordanian rule, the Old City of Jerusalem was designated Judenrein (Jew-free), synagogues were destroyed, and Jewish tombstones from the Mount of Olives were used to build latrines.
Opponents totally ignore these inconvenient facts while also failing to research the city’s history. Records show that by the turn of the twentieth century the population of Jerusalem actually had a Jewish majority. In addition, we know that the Jewish connection to Jerusalem goes back much further and is deeper than that of any other people. Israel’s father, Abraham, met God there 4,000 years ago, and 1,000 years after that King David made it the capital of a united Jewish kingdom. It has never been the capital of any other nation since and certainly not of the Palestinians.
Most of our modern world attempts to draw equivalence between competing religious claims over the holy city of Jerusalem. But, of the three great monotheistic faiths, Judaism undoubtedly has the strongest claim to the city, especially to the Old City—or East Jerusalem— going back to the biblical period.
Jerusalem is mentioned in the Bible some 660 times and Jews always pray facing Jerusalem.
Muslims pray facing Mecca (with their backs to Jerusalem), while the Koran does not contain a single mention of Jerusalem by name. In fact, the entire Islamic claim to the city is built upon a tale of Mohammed ascending to heaven upon a mystical steed from the “farthest mosque” which is assumed to be Jerusalem.
Christians of course hold Jerusalem dear to their hearts because of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus there. And Christians are called to preach the good news to the world in expectation of Jesus’ return and the establishment of a New Jerusalem. So, while Christians should pray for the peace of Jerusalem now, that does not translate into a claim over the city for religious purposes.
When Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu spoke at the opening of the US Embassy in Jerusalem, he quoted from Zechariah 8:3 which reads:
I will return to Zion,
And dwell in the midst of Jerusalem.
Jerusalem shall be called the City of Truth,
The Mountain of the Lord of hosts,
The Holy Mountain.
An important note must be made that God Himself has laid claim to Jerusalem as His dwelling place and He is deeply concerned about the issue of truth, regardless of the world’s majority opinion. US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley remarked recently that, “America did not make Jerusalem Israel's capital. What President Trump did, to his great credit, was recognize a reality that American presidents had denied for too long.”
God has warned the nations, through the prophet Joel, that judgment is coming for those who divide the land of Israel and remove her people from it (Joel 3:1–2). The US Embassy move to Jerusalem was not only the right thing to do politically, but it recognized historical truth and realigned the United States with God’s restorative purposes for Israel at this time.
- by Daryl Hedding, ICEJ USA Deputy Director