The Surprising Source of the Threat to Redivide Jerusalem Again

If I forget you, O Jerusalem, may my right hand cease to function. May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth if I do not remember you, if I do not exalt Jerusalem as my greatest joy!” (Psalm 137:5-6, Berean Study Bible)

As much as Jews and Christians have in common, there’s no place that’s more central to Jews and Christians than Jerusalem. It’s the city of the Kings, Prophets and where Jesus preached, worshipped and was crucified.

As central as Jerusalem is to our history and our faith, Jerusalem is facing a threat to be redivided today, a threat to Israel’s sovereignty. Sadly, the threat is not from one of our enemies.

From the 1840s, the U.S. had a consulate in Jerusalem, then under the Ottoman Empire. When Israel declared independence and had Jerusalem as its capital in 1948, the consulate became a U.S. diplomatic outpost in Israeli Jerusalem, but not its embassy. That was established in Tel Aviv because the U.S. did not recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, despite the 3000-year-old biblical history, and as modern Israel’s seat of government.

The 1995 U.S. Embassy Act was a bipartisan law, supported overwhelmingly by the U.S. Congress. It declared Jerusalem Israel’s capital, that Jerusalem “should remain an undivided city,” and that the U.S. was required to move its embassy there. Because of a clause that allowed all successive presidents to defer doing so, moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem didn’t take place until 2018. Then, the consulate that had been operating as a separate entity was closed, and its work was merged into that of the embassy. So, what’s the problem?

First, at the risk of overstating the obvious, Jerusalem is and has been the heart and center of biblical Israel, the Jewish people and modern Israel for over 3000 years. Jerusalem is mentioned over 600 times in the Bible, and zero times in the Quran.

The stand-alone consulate was grandfathered in when Israel restored sovereignty, and when Israel reunited Jerusalem in the 1967 Six-Day War. But U.S. policy remained schizophrenic: supporting Israel but not Israeli authority in Jerusalem. The consulate became a diplomatic office to “the West Bank” and, at the time of the U.S. Embassy Act, a diplomatic office to the newly created Palestinian Authority (PA).

Years ago, I was in touch with successive U.S. diplomats posted to the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem. Because I live in the Judean mountains, over the Green Line from what was Israeli territory before 1967, also pejoratively referred to as “the West Bank,” there were diplomats assigned to get the pulse of, and report back on, life on the ground. I hosted a number of these diplomats at my home, and offered tours and insight about modern Jewish life in Judea. Invariably, the same diplomats would visit me either on the way to or from visiting Palestinian Arab communities nearby with the same agenda to understand and file reports.

In addition to being invited to the U.S. embassy Independence Day celebration, for several years I was invited to the U.S. consulate’s parallel celebration on another day. What was fascinating about the latter is that in addition to Jewish (“settler”) leaders invited from “the West Bank,” Palestinian Arab leaders were also invited. One year I found myself within meters of then P.A. Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. For people supposedly not able to live together, we coexisted just fine in the consulate’s backyard.

I thought it would be novel to have a conversation and get a picture with him. I usually don’t do such things because photos with “important” people don’t make me feel important, as much as affirmation that we were in the same place.

Despite Fayyad’s role in promoting and funding terror, I felt that for him, it would be bad, even dangerous, to have even an innocuous picture with a “settler” floating around social media. Some people I know have posted such pictures showing “coexistence,” only to lead to threats to the Arabs by other Palestinian Arabs. So, I chose not to do so. You’re welcome Mr. Fayyad.

The U.S. consulate is closed and presumably the U.S. can find another venue to celebrate its independence with Palestinian Arabs and Jewish Israeli “settlers.” But now, the Biden Administration wants to reopen the consulate as its diplomatic office to the P.A., in the same building in central Jerusalem that is part of sovereign Israel where I almost met Fayyad. Such a move is unprecedented, with one nation having a diplomatic office to another entity in the capital of a third nation. It also contradicts American law.

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