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Jerusalem Primate attempts to dampen anger over capital row

15 December 2017


Indistinct: a Palestinian in the Gaza Strip amid tear gas, after a protest on Tuesday against President Trump’s decision on Jerusalem

Indistinct: a Palestinian in the Gaza Strip amid tear gas, after a protest on Tuesday against President Trump’s decision on Jerusalem

THE Archbishop in Jerusalem, the Most Revd Suheil Dawani, has called for peace amid “turmoil and confusion” — one week after President Trump recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel (News, 8 December).

President Trump announced on Wednesday of last week that he would be directing the State Department to move the United States’ embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem .

The move provoked anger and violent protests from Palestinians across the Middle East, who have maintained that no peace deal can be reached between the two nations unless East Jerusalem is recognised as the capital of an independent state of Palestine.

Archbishop Dawani was one of 13 Patriarchs and Heads of Churches in Jerusalem to sign a letter warning the US President against the announcement. The Primate said in his sermon at St George’s Cathedral, Jerusalem, on Sunday: “In a week of turmoil and confusion in Jerusalem, the voice of the prophet becomes one that we are all seeking to hear.

“We know that many are now suffering, and are deeply anxious as to what the future of this Holy City, and this land that we love so much will now be. The Prophet’s voice echoes in the wilderness. It calls us into ways of justice and peace.”

The joint letter said that the announcement would “yield increased hatred, conflict, violence, and suffering” and deepen “destructive division” in Jerusalem and the Holy Land. “Any sudden changes would cause irreparable harm,” it stated.

The Episcopal Church in the US issued a similar statement last week, saying that the decision “could have profound ramifications on the peace process and the future of a two-state solution, and it could have a negative impact throughout the region and with key US allies. . .

PAClash: Palestinian protesters take cover from tear-gas fired by Israeli troops near the Israel-Gaza border, east of Gaza City, Gaza Strip, on Tuesday“As Episcopalians and Anglicans, we reiterate our view that the final status of Jerusalem, a city important to Jews, Muslims, and Christians, needs to be negotiated by Israelis and Palestinians with the support of our nation and the international community.”

But some Jewish leaders have welcomed the recognition. The President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, Jonathan Arkush, and the Senior Vice-President, Richard Verber, said: “It is bizarre that this decision should be seen as remarkable.

“Jerusalem has been the spiritual centre of Jewish life for 3000 years, since the time of King David. As soon as Israel declared independence in 1948, it declared Jerusalem as its capital and placed its parliament in the west of the city, in territory recognised as Israel by the international community. . . We also hope that this move will not stand in a vacuum.”

The British Orthodox Rabbi Lord Sacks went further. The recognition was an “essential element” in achieving lasting peace in the region, he said. “The sustained denial, in many parts of the world, of the Jewish connection with Jerusalem is dishonest, unacceptable, and a key element in the refusal to recognise the Jewish people’s right to exist in the land of their origins.”

Church leaders in the UK have expressed concern, however. The Archbishop of Canterbury wrote in a Facebook post last week: “The status quo of the City of Jerusalem is one of the few stable elements of hope for peace and reconciliation for Christians, Jews, and Muslims in the Holy Lands. Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.”

The Recording Clerk for Quakers in Britain, Paul Parker, said that it gave “legitimacy to the widespread human-rights abuses committed by the Israeli government in its 50-year occupation of Palestine, including the illegal acquisition of Palestinian land in East Jerusalem and the West Bank”.

He urged President Trump to reconsider his actions, and the UK “to accept its historic and current responsibility towards peace in the Middle East and to take immediate steps to recognise the State of Palestine in the same way as it recognises the State of Israel”.

Pope Francis had also appealed to the US to respect the status quo of Jerusalem. Speaking during his weekly general audience last week, he said: “My thoughts go to Jerusalem, and I cannot keep silent my deep concern for the situation that has been created in the past days. At the same time, I would like to make a heartfelt appeal for everyone’s commitment to respect the city’s status quo, in conformity with the pertinent United Nations Resolutions.”

The head of foreign policy for the European Union, Federica Mogherini, said on Tuesday that the EU would continue to follow the “international consensus” on Jerusalem, despite appeals from the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to follow the US.

The UN’s position on Jerusalem was also unchanged, after an emergency meeting held by the UN Security Council last Friday. The special co-ordinator for the Middle East peace process, Nickolay Mladenov, expressed concern, however, about the potential for an escalation of violence, noting that widespread demonstrations and clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli security forces had occurred throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip since the decision.


‘Gestures from afar are not enough’ - Middle East tensions must not be allowed to create conflict in the UK, says Rob Thompson

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