(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)
Iran Marks 40th Anniversary of US Embassy Seizure
Tuesday, 5 November, 2019 – 12:30
A woman walks in front of new murals of the former US embassy in Tehran, Iran November 2, 2019. (Reuters)
London, Tehran – Asharq Al-Awsat
Iran marked the 40th anniversary of the seizure of the mission of the US Embassy in Tehran with dozens of rallies in several cities across the country chanting against the US.
State television showed footage of crowds packed in the streets surrounding the former embassy building, dubbed the “den of spies” after Iran’s 1979 revolution. The building is currently under the control of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
State television broadcast live footage of similar gatherings in several cities, including Mashhad, Qazvin and Tabriz in the north; Ilam, Bushehr, Ahvaz and Shiraz in the south; Isfahan in the center, as well as Zahedan in the southeast.
According to the Mehr news agency, “millions are taking part in these gatherings” across the country.
In Tehran, men, women and children waved placards in English and Farsi, reading: “Down with USA.. Death to Israel..Victory to Islam.” They carried effigies mocking US President Donald Trump.
In 1979, hard line students stormed the embassy soon after the fall of the US-backed Shah Mohammad Reza, and took 52 US citizens hostage. The protesters demanded Washington hand over the Shah for persecution inside Iran in exchange for releasing the hostages. They released them after 444 days when the Shah died in Egypt.
On Sunday, Iran’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei criticized French President Emmanuel Macron for trying to promote talks between the United States and Iran.
“The French president, who says a meeting will end all the problems between Tehran and America, is either naive or complicit with the US,” he said in remarks reported by state television.
He warned Iranian officials against holding talks with the US unless it returns to the 2015 nuclear deal and lifts reimposed sanctions. “Those who believe that negotiations with the enemy will solve our problems are 100 percent wrong,” he said.
Meanwhile, Iran’s parliament gave initial approval to a measure requiring schoolbooks to inform students about “America’s crimes”, as lawmakers attending the session chanted “Death to America”.
Relations between the two countries have been deeply strained since President Trump abandoned in 2018 the 2015 pact between Iran and world powers under which it accepted curbs to its nuclear program in return for lifting sanctions.
The United States has reimposed sanctions aimed at halting all Iranian oil exports, saying it seeks to force it to negotiate to reach a wider deal that includes Iran’s ballistic missile program and its regional activities.
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Iran breaks further away from crumbling nuclear deal
Tehran now operates twice as many advanced centrifuges banned by 2015 pact, says move is direct result of US withdrawal.
Iran has taken further steps away from its crumbling nuclear deal with world powers by announcing it is doubling the number of its advanced centrifuges, calling the move a direct result of the United States‘ withdrawal from the agreement last year.
As well as operating twice as many advanced centrifuges banned by the 2015 accord, Tehran is working on a prototype that is 50 times faster than those allowed by the deal, Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of the Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran, said on Monday.
Salehi said Iran is now operating 60 IR-6 advanced centrifuges. Such a centrifuge can produce enriched uranium 10 times as fast as the first-generation IR-1s allowed under the accord.
By starting up these advanced centrifuges, Iran further cuts into the one year that experts estimate Tehran would need to have enough material for building a nuclear weapon – if it chose to pursue one.
Daryl Kimball, director of the US-based Arms Control Association, told Al Jazeera that though Iran was taking worrisome steps, these were quickly reversible if there were to be some diplomatic arrangement to bring both sides back into compliance.
“Our interpretation is that Iran is trying to increase the pressure on Britain, France and Germany in particular to find some arrangement that will allow them to sell the oil they were buying when Iran was not under sanctions.”
“That requires some level of US support to waive sanctions against European firms by the United States. So far, the US has no agreed to do that.”
Salehi also announced that scientists were working on a prototype he called the IR-9, which worked 50-times faster than the IR-1.
Al Jazeera’s Dorsa Jabbari reporting from Tehran said the feeling in Iran is that since the US withdrew from the landmark 2015 nuclear deal, the remaining signatories – France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Europe and Russia – have yet to uphold their end of the deal.
Iran’s healthcare system threatened by US sanctions: Rights group
“Salehi stressed that is why Iran is moving forward with its nuclear program,” Jabbari said.
“This deal has been on its final legs for the last few months. Various European diplomats have been trying to salvage it by convincing the US and Iran to come back to the negotiating table, but Iran’s position is that until the US lifts its sanctions that it has imposed on the country since last year, they will not come back to any negotiations,” Jabbari said.
Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Iranian government said on Monday that President Hassan Rouhani will announce further steps away from the accord sometime soon. An announcement had been expected this week.
Iran has previously broken through its stockpile and enrichment limitations, trying to pressure Europe to offer it a new deal, more than a year since US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew Washington from the accord.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas warned that the announcement jeopardised the 2015 nuclear accord, urging Tehran to return to the pact.
“Iran has built very advanced centrifuges, which do not comply with the agreement,” Maas told a news conference. “They have announced in early September that they would not comply with the nuclear accord and we think this is unacceptable.”
Salehi’s announcement came as Iran on Monday marked the 40th anniversary of the 1979 US Embassy takeover that started a 444-day hostage crisis.
Demonstrators gathered in front of the former US embassy in central Tehran as state television aired footage from other cities across the country marking the anniversary.
“Thanks to God, today the revolution’s seedlings have evolved into a fruitful and huge tree that its shadow has covered the entire” Middle East, said General Abdolrahim Mousavi, the commander of the Iranian army.
On Sunday, during a speech to mark the upcoming anniversary, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei again ruled out negotiations with Washington, citing its un-trustworthiness.
“Nothing will come out of talking to the US, because they certainly and definitely won’t make any concessions,” Khamenei said, according to his official website.
The collapse of the nuclear deal coincided with a tense summer of mysterious attacks on oil tankers and Saudi oil facilities that the US blamed on Iran.
Tehran denied the allegation, though it did seize oil tankers and shoot down a US military surveillance drone.
JERUSALEM — When Israel declared its independence in 1948, President Harry Truman rushed to recognize it. He took just 11 minutes, and Israelis, about to go to war to defend their infant state, were euphoric.
Seventy years to the day — and nearly as long since Israel declared the holy city of Jerusalem its “eternal capital” — the United States will formally open its embassy on a hilltop here two miles south of the Western Wall.
Israelis find it hard to rejoice when they find themselves doing some of the same things they did back in 1948: listening for civil-defense sirens, readying bomb shelters and calling in reinforcements to confront threats to the north, south and east.
An escalating shadow war with Iran has broken into the open, pitting Israel against its most powerful adversary in the region. A mass protest in Gaza has spurred thousands of Palestinians, encouraged by Hamas, to try to cross into Israel, whose snipers have killed scores and wounded thousands of them. The bloodshed has brought the Israeli-Palestinian conflict back onto the international agenda after years as an afterthought.
Now, in East Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank, Israeli border police and troops are bracing for expressions of pent-up frustration, impatience and rage — at the United States for seeming to dispense with any pretense at balance; at Israel for its continuing occupation; at the Palestinian Authority for its weakness and corruption; and at the peace process itself, for inspiring hopes that have again and again proved false.
“If you look at it from the outside, you’d see one of the most dramatic success stories of the 20th century,” said the historian Tom Segev, author of a new biography of Israel’s founding prime minister, “David Ben-Gurion: A State at All Costs.”
With Israel so strong and its Jewish population larger than ever, Mr. Segev said, “It’s really the realization of Ben-Gurion’s dream. But at the same time, the future is very bleak, and some of the problems he left us remain unresolved.”
It is hard for Israeli Jews to feel entirely at ease when they remain so estranged from one another and the nearly two million Arab citizens at home, and from millions of people next door: A lasting settlement with the Palestinians seems as elusive at it has been in more than a generation.
However besieged many Israelis may feel, objectively Israel has never been more powerful, in almost any sense of the word.
Its military routinely obliterates opposing forces with fighter jets, antimissile batteries and newfangled tunnel-destroying tools. Its spies whisk warehouses’ worth of secrets out from under its enemies’ noses. Its high-tech start-ups routinely sell for billions, its economy is the envy of the Middle East, its television shows thrive on Netflix. On Saturday, its entrant in the Eurovision Song Contest — a chicken-dancing feminist named Netta Barzilai — overcame a boycott attempt by Israel’s detractors to win by popular acclaim.
Warming relations with Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf States are even buoying hopes that Israel could begin to expand its tiny circle of friends in the region.
Monday’s move of the American mission to a fortified former consulate along the seam between East and West Jerusalem, from a beachfront bastion in Tel Aviv, is freighted with symbolism in manifold ways.
But the relocation of the chief American outpost from liberal Tel Aviv, a blue dot on the red political map of Israel, to a capital city that has largely replaced its secular Israeli population with a more religious one, neatly mirrors what is happening to support for Israel in the United States.
Ben-Gurion was prime minister for 13 years, all told. Benjamin Netanyahu will surpass that record in mid-2019 if he holds on to office. That is far from assured: He faces possible indictment in a web of domestic corruption scandals, and criminal charges could cause his governing coalition to collapse.
President Trump has gone further than perhaps any of his predecessors to support Israel and its right-wing leader, and no American president has done more to bestow gifts on an Israeli leader than he has.
From recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, to withholding money from the United Nations relief agency for Palestinian refugees — an agency Mr. Netanyahu would like to see eliminated altogether — to pulling out of the Iran nuclear agreement last week, Mr. Trump’s has showered Mr. Netanyahu with political prizes.
Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter, Jared Kushner, his son-in-law and a senior adviser on the Middle East, and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, are among the high-ranking representative sent by the administration to attend Monday’s opening ceremony. Israel said all 86 countries with diplomatic missions in the country were invited to the event, and 33 confirmed attendance.
To Palestinians, the official unveiling of the embassy is just the most concrete and latest in a cavalcade of provocations from Washington and the Israeli government.
“It’s might makes right,” said Hind Khoury, a former diplomat for the Palestine Liberation Organization who now heads a sustainable development nonprofit based in Bethlehem. Not only are Palestinians now expected to forget about Jerusalem, she said, but also the losses of their homes in 1948 and again in the fighting of 1967.
“Accept Israel’s presence and dominance,” she said. “Accept home demolitions and expulsions and dispossession.
“Accept the uprooting of our olive trees, the violence of settlers,” she continued, picking up steam. “Accept settlements. Accept Israel’s control of all the Jordan Valley, and using it for its economic benefit. Accept that Israel didn’t live up to any of its commitments. Accept the siege of Gaza. Accept that East Jerusalem doesn’t belong to us anymore. Accept the racist legislation that Israel passes; that we’re prisoners in our land: I can’t get a visa because we’re ‘all terrorists.’ Accept the use of ‘anti-Semitism’ to fight anybody who wants to support Palestinian rights.”
“These are things we have to accept, or we’ll just get more hell,” she said, before adding: “Maybe I speak more like a mother and grandmother, but it’s so sinful to give such a legacy to the next generation.”
For Israeli Jews, a different set of grievances is being assuaged and activated by Monday’s embassy opening and all it stirs up.
The American-Israeli author Yossi Klein Halevi, whose new book “Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor” is being published on Tuesday, sees the embassy move as a “rare moment of compensation” for what he called “the campaign to deny any Jewish connection to Jerusalem” — one expressed in votes of Unesco, or in the speeches of Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority president, when he invokes the Christian and Muslim attachment to Jerusalem but pointedly omits any Jewish one.
“There’s this deep resentment among Israelis about the war against our history and our rootedness in this city,” Mr. Halevi said.
Still, noting that his book “about reconciliation with my Palestinian neighbors is coming out at one of the worst moments in the tortured history of our relationship,” Mr. Halevi said he wished the embassy move could be accompanied by some kind of “affirmation by both Israel and the United States of the Palestinian presence in the city we share.”
“I don’t think we should be laying out blueprints,” he said. “We’re far from that. But there should be a clear stating of our recognition that we’re not alone in Jerusalem. This would be an apt moment for a generous Israeli statement.”
Mr. Netanyahu’s advocacy against the Iran deal during the Obama administration did much to sour Jewish Democrats on the Israeli leader. His abandonment of a painstakingly negotiated deal to give Reform and Conservative Jews a bigger stake in Jewish life in Israel, and approval of a measure granting the Orthodox chief rabbinate’s monopoly over conversions to Judaism in Israel, drove a wedge between liberal American Jews and Israeli religious leaders.
Other policies, like efforts to deport African migrants, and an ongoing legislative attack by Mr. Netanyahu’s political allies on democratic institutions like Israel’s Supreme Court, have only added to many liberal Americans’ discomfort with Israel.
In effect, as the Trump administration gives physical expression to its affection for Israel, a rift appears to be widening between the world’s two main centers of Jewish life.
The immediate threats to Israeli security could of course fizzle. The rift between American and Israeli Jews could heal with a new administration in either place, if not before. Even the risk posed by the embassy move could prove no more dampening to the celebration, in retrospect, than the smashing of a glass at a Jewish wedding.
And Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the Middle East peace process “is most decidedly not dead,” despite the embassy move, telling “Fox News Sunday” that the United States still hopes to be able to “achieve a successful outcome” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Mr. Segev, the biographer, said he had learned in his research that Ben-Gurion had never cared much for Jerusalem, and had refrained from trying to take the city in 1948 in part because he knew it would be difficult to guard its Old City from extremists.
In that sense, Mr. Segev said, little seems to have changed.
“That’s what Jerusalem is all about,” he said. “That’s why it’s been a problem the last 3,000 years. And it may be a problem for the next 3,000 years.”
A version of this article appears in print on , on Page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: In Israel, Pride and Anxiety Greet U.S. Embassy’s Jerusalem Debut. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe
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(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)
Hamas Delegation Heads to Cairo before US Embassy Move
Sunday, 13 May, 2018 – 11:00
Israeli troops fire shots, tear gas at Gaza protesters. (Reuters)
Hamas chief Ismail Hanieh traveled to Cairo on Sunday a day before the United States is expected to relocate its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.
The Palestinian movement has planned major rallies in Gaza in protest against Washington’s controversial move.
In Egypt, Hanieh and other Hamas members are set to meet with the head of Egypt’s security services, Hamas sources said, amid mounting speculation that Egypt is seeking to negotiate a deal with the movement to ease potential violence on Monday.
Hamas declined to comment on Hanieh’s departure.
Tens of thousands of Palestinians are expected to gather along the border between Gaza and Israel Monday to protest as the US opens its embassy.
Hamas leaders have voiced support in recent days for attempts to break the fence into Israel, despite the possibility of it leading to bloodshed.
Arab media have speculated that Egypt could ease border restrictions with Gaza and offer economic relief in exchange for protesters not trying to breach the fence.
Fifty-four Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire since mass protests broke out along the border on March 30. No Israelis have been injured.
The moving of the embassy, a campaign pledge by US President Donald Trump, has infuriated Palestinians, who view the eastern part of Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.
Israel captured east Jerusalem in the 1967 Mideast war and annexed it in a move not recognized internationally.
The Palestinians want east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state and view the relocation of the embassy from Tel Aviv as a blatantly one-sided move that invalidates the US as a Mideast peace broker.
Trump will not attend the embassy opening Monday, but his daughter Ivanka and son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner will.
Hanieh is expected to return to Gaza late Sunday ahead of the protests.
Last week, Hamas’ leader in Gaza, Yehya Sinwar, said international and regional mediators have come up with offers “to control” weeks of deadly protests.
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File: Waqf officials and others prepare to pray outside the Temple Mount, in Jerusalem’s Old City, rather than enter the compound via metal detectors set up by Israel following a terror attack, July 16, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Less than two weeks away from the scheduled transfer of the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are pumping a quarter of a billion dollars into the Islamic Waqf and a slew of Muslim organizations in East Jerusalem, Hadashot news reported Wednesday.
The Waqf (Muslim Trust) administers the Temple Mount, home to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, Islam’s third holiest shrine, as well as a slew of schools, orphanages, Islamic libraries, Islamic courts and other properties. The mount is the holiest place in Judaism as the site of the ancient temples. Israel maintains overall security control at the site.
The three countries are describing the move as an act of “rescue” to finance renovations at holy sites, but Israeli officials fear their involvement will go beyond money and could spark violence in the run-up to the ribbon-cutting on May 14, the TV report said.
It had been previously reported that Trump had considered but decided against attending the inauguration.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is currently set to lead the 250-member delegation for the event, which will include 40 members of Congress and Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and daughter Ivanka Trump. Other media reports have suggested that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo could lead the delegation, in lieu of a Trump arrival.
Welcomed by Israel, the Palestinians have seen the embassy move as a provocation, and have said it effectively negates the possibility of the Trump administration serving as an honest broker in peace talks. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and other PA officials have refused to meet with anyone on Trump’s team since he recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas gestures as he speaks during a press conference on Jerusalem, in the West Bank city of Ramallah on April 11, 2018. (AFP/Abbas Momani)
The opening of the embassy will take place just two days after the deadline for Trump’s decision on whether or not to scrap the the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action signed in 2015 between Tehran and six world powers, including the US, under then-president Barack Obama.
The agreement curbed Tehran’s controversial nuclear enrichment program in exchange for relief from international sanctions.
Trump has termed the agreement the “worst deal ever” and has called on the other signatories to “fix it.”
He has threatened to tear up the deal unless new restrictions are imposed on Iran’s ballistic missile program and other military activities by May 12.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is campaigning for the deal to be fixed or nixed.
All have warned against moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
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Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (L) address the media at the Presidential Palace in Ankara January 12, 2015. (photo credit: REUTERS)
Ayman Safadi, the foreign minister of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, has been actively campaigning on Twitter against US President Donald Trump’s plan to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. His is one of many voices throughout the region, among countries the Jewish state has relations with and those it doesn’t, among its enemies and luke-warm friends, warning of the consequences of such a move.
On December 3, Safadi tweeted that he had spoken with his counterpart in the United States, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson “on dangerous consequences of recognizing Jerusalem as capital of Israel. Such a decision would trigger anger across Arab, Muslim worlds, fuel tension and jeopardize peace efforts.”
Safadi had reached out to the Arab League and Organization of Islamic Cooperation, which represents 57 Muslim countries, for support against the US move, he said. He went further on December 4, tweeting that he had spoken with foreign ministers from Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Morocco, Iraq, Oman and Tunisia.
Jordan appears to see the recognition as a serious crisis. This is compounded by Israel’s lack of an ambassador in Jordan since July, after an Israeli security guard shot two Jordanians.
Egypt, the other Arab country in the region at peace with Israel, has also opposed Trump’s declaration. Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry spoke with French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian on December 5 about the potential embassy move.
“The two expressed their hope that the US administration reconsiders its plan before making a final decision, due to its potentially dangerous impact on the region and the peace negotiations,” Egypt Today reported. Egyptian president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi also spoke with Trump and said the decision would “complicate” issues in the Middle East. The relatively ambiguous statement from Cairo notes that Sisi “affirmed the Egyptian position on preserving the legal status of Jerusalem within the framework of international references and relevant UN resolutions.”
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been a vociferous critic of Trump’s recognition. On December 5, Hurriyet reported that he said “this could go as far as cutting our diplomatic relations with Israel. You cannot take such a step.” He added that this is a “red line” for Muslims.
King Abdullah of Jordan traveled to Ankara on Wednesday, December 6 at the height of the Jerusalem crisis with intentions of discussing Jerusalem and de-escalation zones in southern Syria.
“I would like to call out to the entire world from here and say Jerusalem is protected by UN resolutions and is a legal status and any steps that would challenge this status should be shied away from, no one has the right to play with the destinies of billions of people for personal gain, because such a move would only serve the purposes of terrorist organizations,” Erdogan said in comments on December 6 with King Abdullah.
In Lebanon, The Daily Star’s front page ran a photo of the Dome of the Rock across the entire page claiming “no offense Mr. President, Jerusalem is the capital of Palestine.” Walid Joumblatt, the Druze leader of the Progressive Socialist Party in Lebanon tweeted a petition on December 5 calling on world leaders to remember that “Jerusalem is the capital of Palestine.” He also tweeted a lyrical discussion about how moving the embassy to Jerusalem was an “abhorrence” that involved moving stones while forgetting the humans.
Saudi Arabia’s King Salman told Trump on December 5 that moving the embassy would be a dangerous step that would provoke Muslims in the region. It would have “gravely negative consequences,” the Kingdom said. But Saudi Arabia has also been accused by commentators in the region of giving Trump a “wink and a nod,” on the Jerusalem issue. The Kingdom is trying to lead a peace push with the Palestinians at the same time.
Morocco’s King Mohammed VI, chairman of the Quds Committee in the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, warned the US that the OIC “expresses its deep concern and strong condemnation of the US decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and transfer its embassy.” The UAE’s foreign ministry also warned of “grave consequences of US recognition.” Qatar also “rejected any measure,” that would lead to recognition its foreign ministry said on December 4.
Iraq, which is recovering from years of war on Islamic State, has also expressed concern about Jerusalem. The cabinet said in a statement that it saw the decision with “utmost worry and warns of this decision’s ramifications on the stability of the region and the world.”
“Today the enemies and others have lined up against the Islamic Ummah and the Prophet of Islamc’s path [are]: US, global arrogance, [and the] Zionist regime,” tweeted Iranian Supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei. He went on to claim that the US and “Zionists” represent a new “Pharoah,” a religious reference. “It is out of despair and debility that they want to declare Al-Quds [Jerusalem] as capital of the Zionist regime.” Iranian president Hassan Rouhani also joined the condemnations. “We call on Muslim peoples to enter into a big uprising against the plot of transferring the US Embassy to Jerusalem.” Iranian allies among the Houthis in Yemen have also held a rally against the Jerusalem move.
US President Donald Trump speaks about the Iran deal from the Diplomatic Reception room of the White House in Washington, DC, on October 13, 2017. (AFP/Brendan Smialowski)
WASHINGTON — Defying longstanding American policy, US President Donald Trump will give a speech Wednesday recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, according to an Axios report on Friday.
A White House spokesman, contacted by The Times of Israel on Friday afternoon, would not confirm the story. “The president has always said it is a matter of when, not if,” the official said. “The president is still considering options and we have nothing to announce.”
The Axios report cited two sources with direct knowledge of Trump’s intentions.
The US Embassy building in the Israeli coastal city of Tel Aviv, December 28, 2016. (AFP Photo/Jack Guez)
Multiple reports surfaced this week that the president would for the second time waive a congressional mandate requiring the US embassy be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, but that he would take the dramatic step of formally recognizing the holy city as Israel’s capital.
An Israeli television report on Wednesday, for instance, said that the Israeli government considered it extremely likely that Trump would declare in the next few days that he recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and that he is instructing his officials to prepare to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv. The White House rejected that report as “premature.”
On Tuesday, US Vice President Mike Pence said Trump “is actively considering when and how to move the American embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.” Pence spoke at a gathering of UN ambassadors, diplomats and Jewish leaders at an event in New York commemorating the 70th anniversary of the UN vote for partition of Palestine, which led to the creation of the State of Israel.
US Vice President Mike Pence speaks as he attends a Permanent Mission of Israel to the United Nations event celebrating the 70th anniversary of the UN vote calling for ‘the establishment of a Jewish State in the Land of Israel’ at the Queens Museum on November 28, 2017 in New York. (AFP/ Timothy A. Clary)
Declaring Jerusalem as Israel’s capital would be a highly controversial move, with the potential to spark unrest in the Middle East. The Wall Street Journal reported that US officials were contacting embassies in the region warning them to prepare for the possibility of violent protests.
A presidential declaration could risk producing an angry response from the Palestinians and other Arab allies, like Jordan and Saudi Arabia, just as the Trump White House is preparing to move forward with its attempts to broker a Mideast peace accord.
Israel says Jerusalem is the eternal and undivided capital of the Jewish state, while the Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state.
Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner has been tasked with leading the administration’s peace efforts. He will participate in a highly anticipated keynote conversation this Sunday at the Brookings Institution’s Saban Forum in Washington, DC, marking a rare occasion when he will give public remarks and discuss the administration’s peace push.
Jared Kushner exits the West Wing of the White House October 17, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images via JTA)
At that event, he will likely face questions about the Trump team’s position vis-a-vis Jerusalem and how that might impact their quest to forge an agreement between the sides.
A 1995 law requires the relocation of the US Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, but provides the president with the prerogative to postpone the move every six months on national security grounds.
Each of Trump’s three immediate predecessors — Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama — repeatedly exercised that right. Trump, for his part, signed the waiver when faced with his first deadline in June. He will have to decide whether to sign it for the second time in his presidency on Monday. (While the official deadline is December 1, since that date falls on a Friday this year, the deadline is extended until after the weekend.)
Israel’s Channel 10 TV news, citing sources in Israel, said there were three camps in the White House with differing opinions on how to deal with the issue.
The first was pushing the president not to sign the waiver and start the process of moving the embassy, and also recognize Jerusalem at Israel’s capital. “It could happen” that the president “simply doesn’t sign” the waiver, Channel 10 reported Friday.
A second camp says don’t do anything, sign the waiver and don’t recognize Jerusalem as it would harm prospects for a peace process and hurt ties with Arab states. The third group is urging the president to sign the waiver, but make a symbolic gesture by recognizing Jerusalem as the capital, the report said.
The majority of Christians have been wrong about Israel for most of their history, according to a leading Anglican theologian and Israel scholar.
For many reasons, Christians ought to think differently about the land of Israel and the Jews as God’s covenant people, Gerald R. McDermott, Anglican chair at Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham, Alabama, explains in a new book.
In an interview with The Christian Post on Tuesday, McDermott explained that his latest work, Israel Matters: Why Christians Must Think Differently About the People and the Land, articulates why it’s important for believers in Jesus to engage Israel with the utmost humility. This is necessary not only because of the geopolitical complexities present there but especially because “the Jews have been horribly wronged by Christians over the millennia.”
“Even before the Holocaust, hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of Jews were murdered over the last 1,800 years by Christians as “Christ-killers,” McDermott said, noting at the time of the Holocaust Germany was the most Christianized nation in the world.
“Jews know these things and are afraid of us,” he said.
The error in thinking that Jesus departed from Judaism and began a new religion furthers the distance between Christians and Jews and makes Jews into an “other,” he said.
Yet in the past several decades, especially in the United States, a resurgence of what is known as Christian Zionism, the view that the land of Israel and ethnic Jews remain central to God’s eternal purposes, has occurred.
McDermott did not personally subscribe to this perspective because he associated it with dispensationalism, theology that considers biblical history as divided intentionally by God into specific ages to each of which He has allotted distinctive administrative principles. This teaching was popularized in the 1800’s by Anglo-Irish preacher John Nelson Darby.
But all that began to change for him upon doing further study of the Bible and history and he found that throughout the ages a minority has believed that one day, in accordance with Scripture, a massive in gathering of Jewish people to their historic homeland would take place.
He realized he did not have to accept a dispensationalist approach to regard the land and people of Israel as an essential component of God’s ongoing work in the world. Nor did he have to subscribe to the often wild, apocalyptic end times scenarios some Christian Zionists have espoused in the past.
In Chapter 3 of Israel Matters the author showcases “Those Who Got It Right.”
From early Church fathers like Tertullian to more recent figures like American theologian Jonathan Edwards and Swiss theologian Karl Barth, each of these men believed that a day would come when the Jews would return to their ancient homeland.
During his ministry Edwards repeatedly warned against spiritualizing biblical promises to the Jews. When the modern state of Israel was established in 1948 Barth wrote that it was a “secular parable” and that the large numbers of Jews returning to the land was a fulfillment of biblical prophecy.
As is expressed throughout The New Christian Zionism, a volume of Christian scholarship on Israel released last year for which McDermott was the editor, Israel Matters argues strongly against supercessionism. This is also known as “replacement theology” which holds that the Church replaced Israel as God’s chosen people.
Today, what is known as “fulfillment theology,” which some assert is merely an updated form of replacement theology, also holds that Jews do not have a God-given destiny in their ancient land. But instead of the Church replacing Israel, its proponents contend that Jesus fulfills in his life and redemptive work all the promises that God ever made to the Jews, including the promise that the land of Canaan would be their everlasting possession.
This theology considers the land insignificant and that the only Jews who are now significant to God are Messianic Jews, those who believe Jesus is the Messiah.
But several passages in the New Testament suggest both beliefs are wrong, McDermott explained.
“Paul says in Romans 11:28 that the Jews who did not accept Jesus as Messiah were ‘enemies of the Gospel’ but nevertheless ‘are beloved’ to God, and that their ‘gifts and calling of God’ to be His special people ‘are irrevocable,'” he said.
Moreover, the Apostle Paul was writing to the Romans 30 years after Jesus’ resurrection but even then was still saying that God’s covenant with ethnic Israel remains in place. This did not mean that all Jews were saved, but that they were still special to God in a particular way.
Likewise, in his Beatitude in Matthew 5:5, Jesus was quoting Psalm 37:11 word for word when he said, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the [earth.]” The Hebrew word for “earth,” which is used five times in Psalm 37, in every one of these five instances in Psalm 37 refers to the land of Israel, McDermott continued. So the Beatitude is better translated, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the Land.”
And in Acts 1:6, “when Jesus’ disciples asked him just before his ascension, ‘Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?’ Jesus did not tell them they were wrong to think there would be a future Israel that God would establish,” he said.
“Instead, He (Jesus) said that the timing of that future was not to be known then.”
In addition to the theological objections McDermott unpacks in the book, he explores the modern political history of the region, which is often characterized by intense and bloody conflicts.
Yet unlike some Christian Zionists who appear to think that the nation of Israel can do no wrong, McDermott is not afraid to criticize the Israeli government when it’s warranted.
He acknowledges in the book where Palestinians have been mistreated at times, how the Israeli government has broken promises, and how certain policies have been unwise. He also writes that the state of Israel should do more to protect Messianic believers. Whether an unjust action is perpetrated by a Jew or an Arab, he says, Christians need to feel free to raise their voices to criticize whoever is responsible when it is clear such an injustice has occurred.
Although imperfect, the state of Israel, “an oasis of freedom and democracy in the Middle East,” is inextricably linked with the Jews, McDermott insists.
“Even if the covenanted people of Israel and the state of Israel are not one and the same, they are intertwined in a complex way,” he writes in the book.
“The state could not exist without its people, and the covenanted people could not survive or flourish without the state. The state shelters the people, and the people — though not all are religious Jews — support the state. One without the other is unthinkable and impossible.”
For Christians who care about the Palestinians and their rights, McDermott encourages them to visit Israel since tourism helps everyone there, and to support the largely-unreported incremental steps Israel is taking to improve the lot of Palestinians.
Written in a scholarly yet accessible tone, Israel Matters is likely to be a important resource for Christians looking to bring their faith to bear on current events unfolding in the United States and in the Middle East. Earlier this month President Donald Trump signed a waiver delaying the move of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, skirting a key campaign promise that he might or might not revisit.
Such a move would “help the cause for peace, not hurt it,” he replied.
“First of all, it would be the simple recognition of reality: Jerusalem and no other city is Israel’s capital,” McDermott said.
“Second, the Palestinian leaders are thugs who would realize by this move that they can no longer dictate as they did to Obama, whose policies hurt both Jews and Arabs.”
The only hope for improvement is for [Palestinian President] Abbas to understand that he has to talk to the Israelis and moving the U.S. diplomatic outpost to the capital would signal to him that he can no longer circumvent the Israelis and try to get what he wants from the United Nations, he added.
Aside from the fulfillment of prophetic scriptures and political considerations, Christians need to think differently about the people and land of Israel because Jesus was and is Jewish, McDermott stressed. And in order to relate to Jewish friends, getting in touch with His Jewishness is essential.
“The Jews were raised up by God as representatives of humanity,” McDermott said. “So that if the Bible shows their departures from God, it is really illustrating ours.”
“Jesus prized Jewish law, said that salvation is from the Jews, predicted that one day Jerusalem will welcome Him, and foresaw that His Apostles will one day rule over the tribes of Israel,” McDermott said.
If Christians begin to think they are somehow better because they believe in Jesus as Messiah and the Jews do not, they fail to understand God’s grace, he added.
“When we realize how profoundly Jewish Jesus was and is, we will feel greater kinship with those for whom Paul said he had ‘unceasing anguish in his heart.'”
WASHINGTON — President Trump signed an order keeping the American Embassy in Tel Aviv rather than move it to Jerusalem as he promised during last year’s campaign, aides said Thursday, disappointing many Israel supporters in hopes of preserving his chances of negotiating a peace settlement.
Mr. Trump made no mention of his pending decision during a visit to Jerusalem just last week and waited to announce it until almost the last minute he could under law, underscoring the deep political sensitivity of the matter. The order he will sign waives for six months a congressional edict requiring the embassy be located in Jerusalem, after which he will have to consider the matter again.
The decision is the latest shift away from campaign positions upending traditional foreign policy as Mr. Trump spends more time in office and learns more about the trade-offs involved. He has reversed himself on declaring China a currency manipulator, backed off plans to lift sanctions against Russia, declared that NATO is not “obsolete” after all, opted for now not to rip up President Barack Obama’s nuclear agreement with Iran and ordered a punitive strike against Syria that he previously opposed in similar circumstances.
In this case, Mr. Trump may invite the wrath of powerful supporters like Sheldon Adelson, the Las Vegas casino magnate and Republican donor who is close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and owns a newspaper in Israel. Some hard-line Israel backers have privately expressed concern that Mr. Trump has not lived up to his campaign pledges because he has been seduced into thinking he may reach the “ultimate deal” that has eluded every other president.
Mr. Trump began backing away from his promise to move the embassy shortly after taking office when King Abdullah II of Jordan flew to Washington without a White House invitation to buttonhole the new president at a prayer breakfast and explain what he viewed as the consequences. The king warned that a precipitous move would touch off a possibly violent backlash among Arabs, all but quashing any hopes of bringing the two sides together.
The embassy question has assumed enormous symbolic significance over the years. The United Nations once proposed that Jerusalem be an international city, but after Israel declared statehood in 1948, it took control of the western portion of the city while Jordan seized the eastern side. During its 1967 war with Arab neighbors, Israel wrested away control of East Jerusalem and annexed it.
Over the 50 years since then, Israel has declared that Jerusalem is its eternal capital and would never be divided again, even as it has built more housing in the eastern parts of the city intended for Jewish residents over the objections of the Palestinians and much of the international community. Most of its main institutions of government are based in Jerusalem.
Like every other country with a diplomatic presence in Israel, the United States has kept its embassy in Tel Aviv to avoid seeming to recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital at the expense of Palestinians who also claim it as the capital of a future state of their own. The United States does have a consulate in Jerusalem that mainly deals with Palestinians but could be converted on a temporary basis into an embassy until a permanent site is found and a full-fledged facility constructed.
Like Mr. Trump, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush both promised to move the embassy as presidential candidates only to drop the idea once they got into office. In 1995, Congress passed a law requiring the embassy be moved to Jerusalem by 1999 or else the State Department would have its building budget cut in half.
But lawmakers included a provision allowing a president to waive the law for six months if determined to be in the national interest. So every six months since 1999, Mr. Clinton, Mr. Bush, Mr. Obama and now Mr. Trump have signed such waivers.
Mr. Trump had promised that he would be different and presented himself as the best friend Israel would ever have in the Oval Office. During the campaign, he said he would move the embassy “fairly quickly” and on the eve of his inauguration reiterated his commitment by telling an Israeli journalist, “You know I’m not a person who breaks promises.”
But he has become enamored of the idea that he, unlike all of his predecessors, could be the one to finally negotiate a permanent peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians, and he was persuaded that an embassy move would hinder that. The president has assigned Jared Kushner, his son-in-law and senior adviser, and Jason Greenblatt, his former personal lawyer, to lead the peace efforts.
Anticipating that Mr. Trump would back off the embassy move, some in Mr. Netanyahu’s coalition hoped that the president at least would say during his trip last week that Jerusalem was Israel’s capital, but he did not do that.
Mr. Trump did visit the Western Wall, the holiest Jewish prayer site in the country, becoming the first sitting American president to do so — an act that some interpreted as indirect recognition since the wall is in a part of the city that Israel took control of during the 1967 war.
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