Did you know ... that the city of Jerusalem is lining up to be the single-most challenging foreign policy issue of our time? How remarkable considering that this city has none of the ingredients of greatness: a population of only 800,000, not located on major roads, without major waterways, ports, or resources. Yet it is not just the most difficult issue of past, present, and future peace negotiations, but those entities which have a say in the Jerusalem issue are broader than you can imagine.
For nearly one hundred years the world has had to contemplate ‘The Jerusalem Question.’ Simply put, who is the undisputed, internationally-recognized owner of the Holy City? The last recognized holder of Jerusalem was the Ottoman Empire, which held the city for exactly 400 years. They lost it to the British in December 1917 and then the empire itself fell apart in 1923. Since then, there has been no consensus on who the final owner should be, even though there have been no less than five dozens proposals to solve the Jerusalem issue.
Why is this the status of this city so difficult to resolve. For starters, it does not merely involve the Israelis and Palestinians. Jerusalem has other powerful stakeholders, including the United Nations, the European Union, the Vatican, Russia, the United States, the Orthodox church, and the Muslim world under the OIC. All these entities have a finger in the ‘Jerusalem pie’ and any one of them can wield a veto to knock a settlement off the board. Add to this list 4,000 years of turbulent history, with a variety of owners, and also several theologies, too.
For a short time, it appeared that there might be a resolution of this issue, however temporary. In November 1947, the young United Nations voted to partition British-mandatory Palestine into aan Arab state and Jewish state. This was called the UN Partition Resolution 181. As for Jerusalem, it was to become a corpus separatum or international city under UN supervision. This status would remain for about 10 years, after which a referendum was to be held to see which way the inhabitants wanted to go.
So what happened to Resolution 181 and the international status of Jerusalem? The Jewish community accepted the resolution, but the Arabs rejected it totally. Once the British withdrew, the 1948 Arab-Israeli war began. Both sides sought to capture and defend their interest in Jerusalem. The result was that the Israeli forces captured the western sector or New City while the Jordanian Arab Legion captured the historic Old City and the Mount of Olives. The United Nations, the proposed guardian and supervisor of the international city, was no where to be found.
Once an armistice was signed between Israel and Jordan, the UN asked for the keys to the city. Both sides said ‘No.’ From their point-of-view, why should they hand over their sector of the city, with which was paid for in the spilt blood of their soldiers and civilians, to an entity which did not lift a finger in its defence? So Jerusalem, the attractive, updated British mandatory capital was divided between two hostile countries. Barbed-wire, no-man’s land, mine fields, and sniper fire became part of life in the divided city. Apart from tourists, diplomats, and Israeli Christians, no one could cross from one side of the city to the other.
The June 1967 war changed the face of Jerusalem. The Old City and Mount of Olives were captured by the victorious Israel Defense forces and the city was reunited. At the end of June, 1967, Israel annexed the eastern sector, declared the entire city to be the indivisible, eternal capital of the State of Israel, and coined the phrase ‘Jerusalem is not negotiable.’ It would not be on the negotiating table in any future peace talks with the Arabs.
While there was no question in Israel’s mind that Jerusalem was to remain in its possession, the rest of the world had other ideas. Foreign embassies refused to locate in Jerusalem, preferring to be based in Tel Aviv 65 kilometres away. Passports of western citizens born born in the Holy City would merely have ‘Jerusalem’ as their place of birth. In essence, it became a city without a country. The world community said that the status of Jerusalem was not settled in June 1967; it must be decided as part of a comprehensive peace agreement with the Arabs.
The fact is that a battle, not negotiations, is what is brewing ahead for Jerusalem. In Part 02, we will see how the battle is internal among Israel’s Jewish population. In later parts, we see the role of jihadists. In the final part, we will look at what the Bible says.
Join with us in the Book of Acts Tour to Turkey and Israel November 7-22, 2014. Follow in Paul’s footsteps at Antioch, Tarsus, Lystra, Iconium, Miletus, Ephesus, and then on to key sites in Israel. Land only price is USD 2,599. See tan.org.au for eBrochure.