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Israel & Christians Today
Biblical understanding about Israel
By Andrew Tucker.. When speaking about the events leading to His return, Jesus taught that “Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled” (Luke 21:24).
No doubt He was referring to many passages in the Hebrew Tenach, in which Jerusalem is described as the city to which the Messiah will come, and from which the word of the Lord will go forth into the nations, and peace will cover the whole earth (see eg. Isaiah 2).
Are these words being fulfilled before our very eyes? In recent months, we have seen a series of decisions taken by many nations within the UN to disconnect the Jewish people from the old city of Jerusalem. There is no other topic that incites international political interest as much as the status of Jerusalem. Judging by the number of resolutions passed by UN institutions, removing the Jews from the city of Jerusalem is even more important than resolving the humanitarian crisis in Syria.
First there was the resolution passed in October 2016 by the UNESCO Executive Board denying the deep historical and religious connection between the Jewish people and the Temple Mount, and condemning what it sees as Israel’s unjustified interference in the Al-Aqsa Mosque/Al-Haram Al-Sharif, and its failure to allow Jordan complete control of the Temple Mount under Jordanian “Awqaf”. This resolution was submitted by Algeria, Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, Qatar and Sudan (none of them well-known for friendly relations with Israel), and adopted by 24 states (with 6 votes against and 26 abstentions).
This was followed on 23 December 2016 by UN Security Council Resolution 2334, adopted by fourteen of the fifteen UNSC states (USA abstained), in which the Council declared that Israel’s establishment of settlements in Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, had “no legal validity”, constituting “a flagrant violation under international law and a major obstacle to the vision of two States living side-by-side in peace and security, within internationally recognized borders”.
Finally, on 15 January 2017, just days before the Trump Administration was installed, about 70 nations met in Paris to discuss the stalled peace process. The “joint declaration” signed by many of those states (UK and Australia being notable exceptions) again reflected the nations’ frustration that Israel continues to claim jurisdiction over Jerusalem. It reveals an almost religious determination to create a State of Palestine with its capital in the old city of Jerusalem.
The nations of the world simply have no idea what to do about Jerusalem, which has indeed become “a cup that sends all surrounding peoples reeling” (Zechariah 12:2). Ever since Israel took control of the eastern part of the city in June 1967, as well as all of the “West Bank”, they have been angry and incensed by Israel’s refusal to allow the nations to govern the city. When Israel passed the Jerusalem Basic Law in 1980, declaring that “Jerusalem, complete and united, is the capital of Israel”, all other states moved their embassies from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv. Since then, each year the UN General Assembly has passed resolutions condemning Israel’s annexation of Jerusalem and those Israeli’s who have gone to live in these territories. The nations grasp at “international law” to justify their anger, and provide a tool for them to express their objections.
All of this is in direct contrast to the Mandate for Palestine, that was established by the Allied Powers in 1920 and approved by the League of Nations in 1922. This Mandate adopted fully the British Cabinet’s famous “Balfour Declaration”, which envisaged “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.”
The fascinating thing about the Mandate for Palestine is that it not only envisaged the return of the Jewish people to the land, it positively required Great Britain to allow the Jewish people to settle in the old city of Jerusalem and all of Judea and Samaria (known today as the “West Bank”). This is reflected in Article 6 of the Mandate for Palestine:
“The Administration of Palestine, while ensuring that the rights and position of other sections of the population are not prejudiced, shall facilitate Jewish immigration under suitable conditions and shall encourage, in co-operation with the Jewish agency referred to in article 4, close settlement by Jews on the land, including State lands and waste lands not required for public purposes.”
Since the early 1970’s, the Arab nations, with support of various blocks of nations at different times, have used the UN institutions to completely undermine the effect of the Mandate for Palestine. And they have used international law to do so. Two arguments are normally made to justify claims that Israel’s control over Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria is “illegal”.
Both are disputable. The first is that Israel has “transferred” its own population into the territories which it occupied during the Six Day war in 1967, in breach of article 49(6) of the Fourth Geneva Convention. But the Fourth Geneva Convention probably does not apply to the West Bank as a matter of law. Even if it does, it does not make occupation illegal. It simply regulates the conduct of the “occupier”, and protects the rights of those living in the occupied territory, pending the conclusion of a peace treaty. It certainly does not prohibit Jews from voluntarily moving to live in the West Bank.
Second, it is argued that the “settlements” are somehow obstructing the creation of a Palestinian state. This too is a specious argument, for at least two reasons. First, the Palestinians may well have a right to self-determination, but they do not have an automatic “right to statehood”. Second, the mere presence of Jews in Jerusalem or Ariel can hardly prevent the creation of a Palestinian state – any more than Arabs living in Jaffa prevents the existence of the State of Israel.
But this conflict is about much more than international law. One senses there is a deep spiritual conflict between Israel and the nations concerning Jerusalem, that goes much deeper than matters of law or politics. At the end of the day, it is a controversy between the nations and the God of Israel, who is preparing all things for the coming of His Messiah, and the establishment of Jerusalem as the political and ecclesiastical capital of the world. The nations have a choice – either to “step aside” and allow God to deal with the Jewish people in His way, or to attempt to frustrate His plans.
Our task as Christians is to make our nations aware of the consequences of their choice, and to intercede before the throne of God on behalf of the Jewish people.
Before it is too late.
Andrew Tucker LLB (Melb) BCL (Oxford)
Executive Director of Christians for Israel International
Legal Counsel of the European Coalition for Israel
Founder of The Hague Institute for International Law Studies on Israel and the Middle East