The world woke up this morning to startling headlines: President Trump is going to declare that Jerusalem is the undisputed capital of Israel and that the United States is planning to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The announcement is scheduled for today.
Already nations in the Middle East have sounded the alarm. Hamas has declared Friday to be a "day of rage" following Friday services at the mosques. They are even advocating violence as part of the demonstrations against this decision. The president of Turkey has indicated that if President Trump follows through with this declaration that it is a "red line" within the Muslim world. Other Middle Eastern nations have made similar statements, including Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Thoughts have ranged from violence on the streets, to demonstrations in front of American embassies, to the total collapse of any further peace-talks between Israel and the Palestinians.
Of course the sides are divided. In an article written by Loveday Morris and Ruth Eglash from the Washington Post, and published on December 2 in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, several leaders within the Palestinian and Israeli communities were asked about the impact such a decision would have upon the relationships between Israel and the Palestinians. Gais Abdul Karim, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, when asked about the impact of a Trump declaration that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, said, "This would be even more problematic, as this would involve direct recognition of the Israeli annexation of East Jerusalem. It would also be recognition of the illegal Israeli move to announce Jerusalem as a capital." He went on to say, "The U.S. will lose its status as a broker and declare itself as an ally to Israel. It will be a complete catastrophe and perhaps a final end to the attempts by the U.S. administration to start a process."
When asked the same question, Nachman Shai, a member of the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, responded: "Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, and we want it to be internationally recognized. When Israel was declared in 1948, some world countries did recognize Jerusalem, and they even had their consulates and embassies here. But after the 1967 war, some of them moved, and later, following each crisis, even more left. I understand the issue with territories, but Jerusalem will always be Israel's capital. And what does it really mean if the embassy is in Jerusalem? Why should it not be in Jerusalem? I think every country in the world would expect foreign embassies to be in their capital."
These are just two differing opinions. Since its declaration as an independent state on May 14, 1948, the center of Israeli government has been in Jerusalem. I have driven by the Knesset many times. The Knesset is the equivalent of our Congress. Nearby are the offices of the various departments of Israeli government. The residence of the Prime Minister is located in Jerusalem. When foreign dignitaries come to Israel, those meetings are held in Jerusalem.
Yes, for nineteen years - 1948 to 1967 - Jerusalem was a divided city. East Jerusalem was Arab, while West Jerusalem, where the government was seated, was Jewish. Jerusalem became an united city following the close of the 1967 Six Day War. At that time Jewish leaders declared that Jerusalem would never again be a divided city. And it has not been, although in the eyes of many around the world, there still is that line of demarcation that exists. One can travel freely today from East Jerusalem into West Jerusalem. They are no check points. To the pilgrim visiting Jerusalem, it is one large growing city.
And yet tensions run high between those living in East Jerusalem from the rest of Jerusalemites. Just a little spark can set off a massive emotional explosion. Will this declaration by President Trump today be that little spark? One can only hope that it is not! The moving of the embassy will take several years, but this declaration will begin that process. Here is what is often overlooked in this matter of the embassy in Israel: Presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama all declared that they would move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Friends, Congress authorized the funding of such a move decades ago, but it has just been a matter of talk. Here is where President Trump is different. He follows through on what he says he will do, and the world is beginning to recognize that he is not your traditional political talking head. And this is what makes them nervous. It is what makes leaders in Congress nervous.
During the campaign, Candidate Trump declared that, if he became President, he would move the embassy of the United States from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Now, it seems that promise is one step closer to being fulfilled.
Friends, you need to remember that Jerusalem's history is not yet completed. We know that someday - and hopefully very soon - Jesus Christ will reign from David's throne there in Jerusalem. At that time every nation in the world will come to Jerusalem to worship God and to pay homage to King Jesus. Jerusalem is still to experience some terrible days of suffering before King Jesus comes, but it will survive.
I always tell my congregation and students, keep your eyes focused upon Jerusalem for that is where all history will climax. That is the intentions of our God. Let me close with these words from the Prophet Ezekiel: "This is what the Sovereign LORD says: 'This is Jerusalem, which I have set in the center of the nations, with countries all around her" (Ezekiel 5:5).