CHURCH leaders in the Middle East have condemned President Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
President Trump announced on Wednesday that he would be directing the State Department to move the United States embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
“We cannot solve our problems by making the same failed assumptions and repeating the same failed strategies of the past,” he said. “I have determined that it is time to officially recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. My announcement today marks the beginning of a new approach to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.”
The news was met with instant anger from the Palestinians 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.
A letter to President Trump, signed by 13 Patriarchs and heads of Churches in Jerusalem, was published on Wednesday. Signatories included the Anglican Archbishop in Jerusalem, the Most Revd Suheil Dawani.
The letter said: “We are certain that such steps will yield increased hatred, conflict, violence and suffering in Jerusalem and the Holy Land, moving us farther from the goal of unity and deeper toward destructive division.
“We ask from you, Mr President, to help us all walk towards more love and a definitive peace, which cannot be reached without Jerusalem being for all. . . Our solemn advice and plea is for the US to continue recognising the present international status of Jerusalem. Any sudden changes would cause irreparable harm.”
The Episcopal Church of the United States’s Office of Government Relations issued a statement on Wednesday. It said that President Trump’s 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. The Episcopal Church Office is joining with Churches for Middle East Peace and many other organizations in opposing any effort to move the Embassy. . .
“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.”
The Archbishop of Canterbury wrote in a Facebook post on Wednesday: “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.”
REUTERSAnticipation: Palestinian women in Gaza City shout slogans in anticipation of President Trump’s announcement, which had been widely reported, on Wednesday
The recording clerk for Quakers in Britain, Paul Parker, said that the decision 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 on Wednesday, 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 UN Security Council was expected to hold an emergency meeting on Friday to discuss the move, after requests from eight countries on the 15-member body, including the UK, France, and Italy. The Prime Minister Theresa May said in a statement late on Wednesday that the decision by the US to move its embassy from Tel Aviv was “unhelpful in terms of prospects for peace in the region. The British Embassy to Israel is based in Tel Aviv and we have no plans to move it.”
The Board of Deputies of British Jews welcomed the decision, however. Its President, Jonathan Arkush, and Senior Vice President, Richard Verber, said in a statement: “It is bizarre that this decision should be seen as remarkable.
“Jerusalem has been the spiritual centre of Jewish life for 3,000 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 hope that other countries will follow suit in recognising the undeniable reality that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital. We also hope that this move will not stand in a vacuum.”