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HAPPY HANUKKAH?: Jerusalem Again in the Spotlight

As Christians prepared for Christmas and Jews for Hanukkah (both were on December 25th this year), the United Nations (UN) Security Council voted on Resolution 2334. Initially it was sponsored by Egypt, who announced a delay after a phone call from President-elect Trump. The next day, 23 December 2016, New Zealand, Malaysia, Senegal and Venezuela jointly sponsored it and it passed 14 to 0 (including permanent members UK, France, China and Russia). The United States abstained. Israel was furious, protesting to all ambassadors of Security Council member nations who have embassies in Tel Aviv .


Two-state solution: An independent (Arab) Palestine and independent Israel living peacefully side-by-side in territory west of the Jordan River. This has been the position of the international community for decades, stretching back to the 1930s and 1940s.

Israeli settlements: Settlements are Jewish Israeli communities built on land captured from the Arabs in the Six-Day War of 1967 (West Bank, Golan, East Jerusalem). There are 121 settlements in the West Bank with a Jewish population of 382,031; 41 settlements & land use sites in the Golan Heights with a population of 20,000 Israelis; and East Jerusalem has around 18 Jewish settlements/suburbs/neighbourhoods with a population of 375,000 Israelis (statistics from Wikipedia)

What Was UN 2334 About?

UN Resolution 2334, reiterated previous UN resolutions from 1967 to 2008, its commitment to a ‘two-state solution’, condemned all attempts to alter the demographic composition, character, and status of ‘the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem,’ … to stop the construction or expansion of Israeli settlements and the transfer of (Jewish) population to these areas.

It ‘demands’ that Israel immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the ‘occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem.’

Clause 3. Underlines that it will not recognise any changes to the 4 June 1967 lines, including with regard to Jerusalem, other than those agreed by the parties through negotiations. This means the pre-1967 borders are to remain unless they are altered through negotiation.
Clause 5. Calls upon all States, bearing in mind paragraph 1 of this resolution, to distinguish, in their relevant dealings, between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967; This could greatly aid the BDS movement (boycott, disinvestment, and sanction campaign) and EU attempts to make a distinction in products that come from Israel or those that come from the West Bank, Golan and, in theory, East Jerusalem.

Clause 6. Calls for immediate steps to prevent all acts of violence against civilians, including acts of terror, as well as all acts of provocation and destruction, calls for accountability in this regard, and calls for compliance with obligations under international law for the strengthening of ongoing efforts to combat terrorism, including through existing security coordination, and to clearly condemn all acts of terrorism. This clause comes in light of the recent incitement, knifings, car-ramming, and shootings by Palestinians on Israeli civilians.

The Implications of UN Resolution 2334

     Clause 3: This treats the armistice lines of 1949, known as the pre-1967 borders, as the basis or at least ‘starting point.’ They can be altered by negotiation. These boundaries are untenable in the long-term and, if there ever is a successful negotiation for a two-state solution, they would have be modified. The famous UN Resolution 242 of 1967, which forms the basis of a possible peace treaty, states that the all nations must have safe and secure borders.

     Clause 5: Makes a distinction between Israel’s territory and ‘occupied territory,’ which spells danger for Israel. It could leave it vulnerable to litigation, a greater target for commercial boycotts and/or sanctions. The EU has already made that distinction, demanding that products that originate from the territories must be labelled as such.

     Clause 6: This was really the only concession for Israel, condemning violence and ‘acts of terror.’ However, it is the Israeli settlements that gets the much greater emphasis as the obstacle for peace. Israel says that it is Palestinian violence and refusal to recognise Israel as a Jewish state that is the real impediment to successful peace negotiations, not the settlements. The implication is that Israel and its settlements are to blame for the failure of the ‘two-state solution,’, not Palestinian rejectionism, intransigence, and violence.

     Big question: When Israel captured the West Bank and East Jerusalem in the Six Day War of 1967, it was held by Jordan. Prior to that, it was held by Ottoman Turkey until 1917 and Britain until 1948. In 1988, Jordan relinquished all claims to the territories west of the Jordan River, popularly known as the ‘West Bank.’ So when did the West Bank and East Jerusalem become ‘Palestinian territory?’ Everything is subject to negotiation; by calling these areas ‘Palestinian territory’ pre-judges the outcome, making successful negotiation more difficult.

     UNESCO in October 2016: A ruling was made regarding the Haram/Al Aqsa Mosque, known in Israel as the ‘Temple Mount,’ where issues involving access for Muslim worshippers, recognition of Jordan’s administrative WAQF status, and other things were addressed. While acknowledging in general Jerusalem’s status as sacred to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, it appeared to reinforce Muslim rights on the Mount without referring to Israel’s historical association. Some interpreted this giving sole charge of Jerusalem’s key sites to the Muslims alone.

     East Jerusalem and Palestine: Since UN Res. 2334 says that East Jerusalem is ‘Palestinian territory,’ what does that mean for Israel’s rights at the Western Wall, the Jewish Quarter, the Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives, as well as the Israeli neighbourhoods beyond the 1967 ‘green line?’ By calling ‘East Jerusalem ‘Palestinian’ territory, the UN is acquiescing to the redivision of the holy city.

     The Future: While the chances of Israel withdrawing from East Jerusalem, voluntarily and soon, are slim, what will it mean in terms of law suits, boycotts, sanctions, international censure, or even conflict? Zechariah 12:2-3 says Jerusalem will be a ‘cup of trembling’ to the neighbours and ‘heavy stone’ for the nations, whereby those who tamper will injure themselves. Are we heading into such a scenario?

     Obama & Israel: As an aside, outgoing US Barack Obama has been accused of knifing Israel in the back on his way out of the White House. For the record, since 1967, every US President, including those who were considered great friends of Israel, have allowed or even voted for Security Council resolutions that either criticised or condemned Israel. Here is the scorecard:

George HW Bush
Richard NIXON
Gerald FORD
George W. BUSH
Barack OBAMA


So until 23 December 2016, President Obama did not allowed any anti-Israel resolutions to be passed in the UN.

The UNESCO Resolution, the UN Resolution 2334, and future resolutions to come, reiterates the point this author has been saying for a long time: Jerusalem will continue to be the centre of international controversy for years to come. That’s why, now more than ever, it is time to pray for the peace of Jerusalem (Psalm 122:6).


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