What Christians in Israel and Palestine Think of President Trump’s Announcement On Jerusalem

The United States embassy currently located in Tel Aviv may be moved to Jerusalem. (Image: Jack Guez / AFP / Getty Images)
The United States embassy currently located in Tel Aviv may be moved to Jerusalem. (Image: Jack Guez / AFP / Getty Images)

President Donald Trump is expected tomorrow to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Doing so would fulfill a campaign promise. It would upend decades of American foreign policy.

And it would simultaneously encourage and unnerve the Christians of the Middle East.

“I am obviously pleased, as an Israeli,” said David Friedman, a professor at the Messianic Jewish Theological Institute and former dean of King of Kings College in Jerusalem.

“Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, de facto, concretely. Our government sits there. So why should President Trump continue ignoring reality?”

But 65 miles north in Arab-majority Nazareth, another Christian educator has a dramatically different response.

“It is a bad idea,” said Botrus Mansour, a Baptist elder and co-chair of the Lausanne Initiative for Reconciliation between Israel and Palestine. “It will increase resentment and possibly spark unnecessary violence, making peace harder to obtain.

“America will lose any remaining legitimacy it had as a fair broker.”

Israel occupied Arab East Jerusalem in 1967, and passed a law in 1980 declaring the city its eternal, united, and undivided capital. The United Nations declared the act null and void, by a unanimous resolution in which the United States abstained.

Palestine also desires Jerusalem as the capital of a future state. So American policy has been to leave the thorny issue for negotiation between the two sides, based on the 1967 border.

But in 1995, Congress passed a law requiring the US embassy to move to Jerusalem—unless the president exercises a waiver, every six months.

Every president since then has done so—including Trump, once. He allowed his second deadline to expire on Monday, technically requiring the embassy to move.

“It would undermine the Palestinian cause even further,” said Mansour. “It is not just a statement, but an action. Another fact on the ground.”

Friedman disagrees.

“If it is not moved, Israel will not be greatly affected. We will not mourn,” he said. “Our capital won’t be moved to Tel Aviv, [just to be] in accordance with a politically chic, ‘international’ perspective.”

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