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The battle for Jerusalem – heading towards conflict?

editor - 8 September 2023

Jerusalem is increasingly the center of competing interests. This is not surprising, given the importance of the “restoration of Zion” in Biblical prophecy. For example, in Isaiah 2 it is written:

In the last days the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established as the highest of the mountains; it will be exalted above the hills, and all nations will stream to it. Many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the temple of the God of Jacob. He will teach us His ways, so that we may walk in His paths.” The law will go out from Zion, the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.


Jerusalem is the capital of Israel 

Jerusalem is central to the identity of Israel as a Jewish state. Jerusalem is Judaism’s holiest site. King David made Jerusalem his capital in the beginning of the 10th century BCE. The city was occupied by many foreign powers and destroyed twice in its history. During Israel’s War of Independence in 1948, the eastern part of the city, including the historic Old City with the Temple Mount, was occupied by Jordan. Israel took this part of the city in June 1967, and Jerusalem was re-united under Israeli authority.This means that, effectively, Israel claims sovereignty over the whole city. On 30 July 1980, the Knesset passed the Jerusalem Law, reaffirming the city’s unity and its status as the capital of Israel.
A house of prayer for all people 
The area within the city’s present municipal boundaries is a little over 125 sq. km with a population of around 950,000 people. About 60% are Jewish, nearly 37% Muslim, 2% Christian (both Arabs and non-Arabs) and 1% others.

While claiming sovereignty over the whole city, Israel acknowledges that Jerusalem is also holy to Christians and Muslims. For that reason, it has extensive agreements with the many church denominations in the city, enabling them to exercise freedom of worship. Israel also has agreements with the Islamic authorities, granting the Islamic Waqf control over the Temple Mount, which is the site of three Muslim mosques.

A small number of nations acknowledge Israel’s claim to sovereignty over the city. This week Papua New Guinea opened its embassy in Jerusalem – becoming only the fifth nation to have an embassy in Jerusalem. Several other nations are expected to follow this example – including Sierra Leone, Paraguay and Fiji. The Prime Minister of PNG stated, “As Christians, paying respect to God would not be complete without recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.”

Opposition 
However, most nations deny the validity of Israel’s control of the city. The European Union opposes Israeli claims to sovereignty over the city, and demands that East Jerusalem become part of a Palestinian state. The Vatican considers that Jerusalem is an international city (“corpus separatum”).

The Islamic world vehemently denies Jewish sovereignty over any part of Jerusalem. Iran continues to regard Jerusalem as Islamic territory, and aims at the destruction of the Jewish state. The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (56 member states) has as one of its objectives (Article 1):

8. To support and empower the Palestinian people to exercise their right to self-determination and establish their sovereign State with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital, while safeguarding its historic and Islamic character as well as the Holy places therein; …

Negotiations
The PLO and Palestinian Authority continue to deny Israeli sovereignty over any part of the city, and demand that “East Jerusalem” (including the Temple Mount) become capital of an Islamic State of Palestine.

The issue of “Jerusalem” was agreed as a matter to be negotiated in “permanent status” negotiations in the Oslo Accords signed between Israel and the PLO in the 1990s. Every attempt since then to negotiate the status of Jerusalem has failed. In the meantime, the PLO is pushing for international “recognition” of Palestinian statehood with East Jerusalem as its capital – thus by-passing negotiations.

Jerusalem is apparently one of the topics of negotiation concerning a possible “Abraham Accord” between Israel and Saudi Arabia. The USA is likely putting pressure on Israel to agree to the division of the city, in exchange for “normalization” of relations with the largest Sunni state in the region. It has been reported that Saudi Arabia wishes to take over the role of Islamic custodian of the Temple Mount from Jordan.

Conflict? 
We seem to be witnessing a convergence of factors pointing towards conflict. The Oslo Accords have failed, and the Palestinian Authority is on the verge of collapse. Iran is on the cusp of attaining nuclear capability, and increasing its influence in the Palestinian-controlled cities. The United Nations is hardening its position that Israeli claims to the city are illegal. Israel, on the contrary, regards control of Jerusalem and its environs as a non-negotiable condition for national security.

It seems highly likely that the competing interests concerning Jerusalem will, at some stage soon, erupt into open warfare.

This is not cause for despair but for hope. The conflict over the city of Jerusalem is a sign of the nearness of the Lord’s coming. The Bible tells us that Jerusalem will be “trampled on by the Gentiles [ie. the nations] until the times of the Gentiles have been fulfilled” (Luke 21). When the nations come up against Jerusalem, the Lord will intervene to protect His people and His city (see eg. Zechariah 12 and 14). Jesus said that when we see these things begin to take place, we should hold our heads high, for our redemption is drawing near (Luke 21:28).

The Editorial Team – Israel & Christians Today

 


‘A milestone moment’: Papua New Guinea opens embassy in Jerusalem
Etkar Lefkovits at JNS: “The Israeli prime minister said the development “will help us realize our potential,” voicing the hope that Israeli entrepreneurs and tourists alike visit and do business with the South Pacific nation.”
> Read more..

 

Terrorist arrested in second IDF raid on Jenin refugee camp this week
Yonah Jeremy Bob at JPost: “Security forces surrounded a terror suspect’s house and successfully arrested him without resistance on his part.”
> Read more..


The survival of the PA despite the failure of Oslo
Yoni Ben Menachem at JNS: “As we reflect on the 30 years since the signing of the Oslo Accords in September 1993 at the White House, it becomes apparent that while the accord aimed to establish a path towards an independent Palestinian state, the leadership of Yasser Arafat and later Mahmoud Abbas failed to halt acts of terrorism and incitement to violence, murder and subversion of Israel.”
> Read more..

 
Israel’s Contribution to the Failure of the Oslo Accords
Maurice Hirsch at JCPA: “For Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) leader Yasser Arafat, the Oslo Accords were merely an opportunity to secure a solid foothold in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza from which to pursue his oft-repeated goal to destroy Israel. Yet from the start, there was a systemic Israeli failure to identify these motivations.”
> Read more..

Ruth’s Character | The Book of RUTH with Johannes Gerloff #22
The nature, characteristics and actions of the young foreigner are revealed in small, everyday situations and yet have a significance of world-historical proportions.

 

 

SCRIPTURE FOR THE WEEK:

Isaiah 2:1-5

This is what Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem:

In the last days

the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established
as the highest of the mountains;
it will be exalted above the hills,
and all nations will stream to it.

Many peoples will come and say,

“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
to the temple of the God of Jacob.
He will teach us his ways,
so that we may walk in his paths.”
The law will go out from Zion,
the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
He will judge between the nations
and will settle disputes for many peoples.
They will beat their swords into plowshares
and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not take up sword against nation,
nor will they train for war anymore.

Come, descendants of Jacob,
let us walk in the light of the Lord.