Speaking at the White House on December 6th, US President Donald Trump announced that the US recognises Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and that he is moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
This pleased Mr Netanyahu and Israel’s government who saw it as a recognition of the reality that Jerusalem is the capital of the Jewish state of Israel. Israel has designated Jerusalem as its capital since 1949, placing its parliament building, the Knesset, its Supreme Court and all the major functions of government there. Israel claims its connection to Jerusalem going back 3000 years to the time when King David made it his capital city. It also pleased those Christians who see the restoration of Israel as a Jewish state and the return of Jerusalem to Jewish rule as a fulfilment of Bible prophecy and a sign of the soon coming return of Jesus Christ.
On the other hand, his statement set off a storm of protest across the Arab and Muslim world, and strong messages of disapproval from the UN, EU, Russia, China and even the Vatican. On December 21st the UN General Assembly voted 128 to 9 to adopt an anti-Israel resolution denouncing US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The resolution was drafted by Turkey and Yemen’s UN delegations, and stated that ‘any decisions and actions which purport to have altered, the character … of the Holy City of Jerusalem have no legal effect, are null and void and must be rescinded in compliance with relevant resolutions of the Security Council.’ It attacked Israel for ‘illegal actions in occupied East Jerusalem’ and called on the USA not to establish its embassy in Jerusalem. Although the anti-Israel majority was large, the fact that a number of countries abstained or did not turn up to vote was seen as a positive sign by Israel. To our shame the United Kingdom joined the anti-Israel vote.
Leading the charge against Israel has been Turkey whose President Erdogan accused Mr Trump of ‘plunging the region and the world into a fire with no end in sight.’ He held a meeting in Istanbul of the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) at which the leaders of 57 Muslim nations called on the world to recognise ‘the State of Palestine and East Jerusalem as its occupied capital’ and declared Trump’s decision to recognise the city as Israel’s capital as ‘null and void’. He accused Israel of being a terrorist state and even made a reference to an infamous Islamic hadith (saying): ‘Those who think they own Jerusalem better know that tomorrow they won’t be able to hide behind trees.’ This is a reference to the saying that ‘the Jew hides behind the tree and the tree says Muslim, servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me; come and kill him.’ Those who recognise its significance know it is a call for the mass slaughter of Jews as something Muslims should be engaged in at the end of days.
Palestinian President Abbas said that the Palestinians would no longer work with the US and said that he does not feel bound by commitments agreed to in Oslo and subsequent rounds of peace talks. While demanding that the US must roll back its recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Abbas threatened, ‘If there is no Palestinian state along the June 1967 borders with Jerusalem as its capital, there will not be peace in the region, in the territories or in the world.’
Abbas accused the Jewish people of falsifying history and religion and claimed that Israel does not meet the criteria for statehood, calling on the world to withdraw recognition. Since Mr Netanyahu made recognition of Israel as a Jewish State by the Palestinians a condition for holding peace negotiations, this means he is effectively closing down the possibility of a negotiated peace with Israel. In fact Abbas really believes that the long term goal of the ‘peace process’ is to ‘liberate Palestine, from the [Mediterranean] sea to the [Jordan] river.’ This is the original goal of the PLO, still chanted by anti- Israel demonstrators in Europe and the Middle East: ‘From the river to the sea, Palestine shall be free’. In other words the end of Israel.
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh called for the opening of ‘the Gates of Hell’ as he told his supporters that Israel should not have a capital named Jerusalem and should not even exist. He urged Muslims to march on Jerusalem, ‘sacrificing millions of martyrs along the way.’
The EU’s Federica Mogherini said she ‘guaranteed’ in a phone call with PA President Abbas that Europe would work for Jerusalem to be the capital of both the state of Israel and a state of Palestine in a future two- state solution. She pledged to ensure Palestinians have a capital in Jerusalem, challenging Israel’s view, which insists the city will remain its undivided, eternal capital.
The Saudi royal court described the US decision as ‘unjustified and irresponsible’ and ‘a big step back in efforts to advance the peace process.’ However they were less strident in their condemnation. Saudi Crown Prince bin Salman is reported to have told Abbas to show support for the US administration’s peace efforts when the two met in Riyadh in November, saying ‘Be patient, you will hear good news. This peace process will go ahead.’ Behind the scenes the Saudis are hoping for a peace settlement with Israel which will bring Israel into their coalition confronting Iran, which both Saudi Arabia and Israel see as the biggest threat to the Middle East.
Why is Jerusalem such an issue?
On 29 November 1947, the UN General Assembly passed Resolution 181 on the Partition of Palestine. The area of British Mandate Palestine west of the Jordan River was to be divided between a Jewish State and an Arab State. Jerusalem was to be a separate entity to be governed by a special international regime.
On the day the British left Palestine, May 14th 1948, David Ben Gurion proclaimed Israel’s Declaration of Independence, announcing the founding of ‘Medinat Israel’, the State of Israel in Tel Aviv. The following day five Arab armies invaded Israel with the intention of destroying the Jewish state at birth. Although outnumbered and out
gunned the Jewish people resisted the Arab offensive and after the costly War of Independence drove the Arab armies back to the ceasefire lines which became the borders of Israel in 1949. The Arab State never came into being as the area known as the West Bank was taken over by Jordan and Gaza occupied by Egypt.
The cease fire line divided the city of Jerusalem with a barbed wire frontier running through the city. Israel controlled the western part of the city making it its capital in 1949, placing there its parliament, the Knesset, Supreme Court and the main functions of government.
Jordan ruled the historic Old City and the eastern suburbs of Jerusalem which it incorporated in to its territory, along with the biblical region of Judea and Samaria, which it renamed ‘the West Bank.’ As well as the Old City of Jerusalem, this area contains places known from the Bible such as Hebron, Bethlehem, Shechem (Nablus) Jericho and the Mount of Olives. Jews were expelled from this territory, including the Jewish Quarter of the Old City, where they had lived for generations. Jewish synagogues in the Old City were destroyed and Jews were prevented from going to pray at their holiest place, the Western Wall. At no point did the Jordanians attempt to create an independent Palestinian Arab state with Jerusalem as its capital at this time.
All of this changed in 1967 as a result of Israel’s victory in the Six Day War, a war in which Egypt, Syria and Jordan aimed at the elimination of the Jewish state. Israel took control of the Old City of Jerusalem and the whole of Judea and Samaria (the West Bank), as well as the Golan Heights from Syria and Gaza and the Sinai from Egypt.
On July 30, 1980, Israel’s Knesset passed the ‘Basic Law: Jerusalem, Capital of Israel’ which declared, among other things, that the city will remain unified in the borders that the Israeli government determined following the Six-Day War, and that no part of the city may be transferred to a foreign government or body.
In 1993 Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organisation signed the Oslo Accords, aimed at resolving the Israel – Palestinian conflict. The status of Jerusalem was left as the last thing to be resolved because of its complexity. In 2000 Israeli Prime Minister Barak met with PLO President Arafat and offered him the Muslim part of the Old City of Jerusalem in return for a peace settlement. He refused, demanding the whole of the Old City. The negotiations broke down and Arafat launched the third Intifada, bringing terrorism to Israeli streets. In response Israel erected the security barrier as a means of preventing terror attacks against its citizens, separating areas under the control of Israel from areas under the control of the Palestinian Authority.
The Quartet was set up, comprising the UN, the USA, the EU and Russia, with the goal of resolving the conflict. The goal of this would be the establishment of a Palestinian State with east Jerusalem as its capital, living alongside Israel in peace and security. Repeated attempts to resolve the conflict, led by the United States, have all failed, to a great extent over the issue of who rules Jerusalem. On becoming President Donald Trump announced his intention to make the ‘ultimate deal’ and settle the Israel – Palestine issue.
In fact Trump’s statement did not rule out any future division of Jerusalem and the Arabs having their own capital there. It also specifically mentioned the status of the holy places remaining unchanged, so it did not encourage any rebuilding of a Third Temple on the Temple Mount.
Biblical significance of all this.
When Israel regained control of the whole of Jerusalem on June 6th 1967, as a result of the Six Day War, many people wondered if this was the fulfilment of Jesus’ prophecy that Jerusalem would be ‘trodden down of the Gentiles (meaning ruled by the Gentiles) until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.’ Luke 21.24. Indeed that was a very significant event pointing to the coming again of the Lord Jesus to set up His Messianic kingdom, reigning in power from Jerusalem. It was not yet the end of the times of the Gentiles though. The end of the times of the Gentiles will be actual event of the second coming of Jesus Christ when He will bring an end to all Gentile rule and ‘the kingdoms of this world will become he kingdom of our God and of His Christ / Messiah and He shall reign forever and ever.’ Revelation 11.15, see also Daniel 2.31- 45. The Lord Jesus will rule the earth from Jerusalem, thus breaking the power of anti-God Gentile rule over Jerusalem, Israel and the whole earth.
The rebirth of Israel in 1948 and the return of the Jewish people to the whole of Jerusalem in 1967 was certainly a fulfilment of Bible prophecy:
‘Hear the world of the Lord O ye nations (Gentiles) and declare it in the isles afar off and say that He who scattered Israel will gather him and keep him as a shepherd does his flock.’ Jeremiah 31.10.
The implication of scripture is that if the Gentile nations will cooperate with God in blessing Israel and helping His people to live in peace and safety in the land, God will bless them, but if they curse the Jewish people and seek to drive them out they will experience God’s judgement. Genesis 12.3.
Although Israel’s flag is flying over Jerusalem, at the present time the city is not free from being ‘trodden down of the Gentiles.’
The most significant place, biblically speaking, in Jerusalem is the Temple Mount, which is administered by the Muslim authority, the Wakf. Here stand the Dome of the Rock and the Al Aqsa mosque, believed by Muslims to be the third holiest place for Islam after Mecca and Medina. The Dome of the Rock has an antichrist text in its dome saying ‘Say not that Allah has a son’, effectively putting a curse on those who believe that the Lord Jesus is the Son of God. Al Aqsa is regularly used as a place from which to give sermons inciting hatred and violence against Israel and the Jewish people. The Muslims prevent non-Muslims from going onto the Temple Mount area for most of the day and forbid prayers from being uttered there, apart from Muslim prayers.
This gives some insight into the Muslim opposition to the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Islam divides the world into what it calls the House of Islam (Dar al Islam) and the House of War (Dar al Harb). In the House of Islam, Muslims rule and Jews and Christians are so called dhimmis, second class citizens under the Muslims. In the House of War non Muslims rule, but the Muslims seek to bring these countries into line with Islamic domination by jihad, or migration and conquest. Once a country has been ruled by Muslims it should remain so until the end of time. If the Muslims lose control of a country they should work to return it to Islamic rule. Apart from the brief Crusader period, different Muslim powers have ruled Jerusalem from 636 to 1917. Therefore Israel and Jerusalem being ruled by Jews, considered dhimmis by classical Islam, goes against what the Muslims consider to be the goal of history.
Islam also believes that it replaces Judaism and Christianity, which are now obsolete as Islam is the only true faith which ‘supersedes all existing religions (Koran chapter 9, verse 33). In fact Muslims believe all Bible figures, Abraham, Moses, David, Jesus were Muslims before their time. Because of this Islam can never recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, because this means that Judaism and the Jewish people remain a living faith and people with a valid claim to Jerusalem and the Holy Land. This is also why Islam places an antichrist text around on the Dome of the Rock, where once the Jewish Temple stood, to show that Islam has superseded Christianity.
All of this is a huge barrier to the Jewish hope of rebuilding a third temple in Jerusalem. At the present time there is no way this could be done on the Temple Mount, without inflaming violent resistance from the Muslims. Prophecy indicates that something will happen to change this situation in the days before the second coming of Jesus Christ. Interestingly Yehuda Glick, of the Temple Mount Faithful appeared on Israel’s Channel 10 after Donald Trump’s declaration on Jerusalem to say: ‘The prophets’ words of prophecy are coming forth from the Bible and becoming facts right before our eyes.’ He has urged Israel to move forward with the rebuilding of the Third Temple in the light of Trump’s announcement.
The Gentile nations, represented by the UN, the Arab League, the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, the EU, Russia, China are all united in wanting to end Israeli rule over the eastern side of Jerusalem and set up a Palestinian State with East Jerusalem as its capital. On December 2nd 2017 the UN passed six anti-Israel resolutions in one day, denying Israeli ties to Jerusalem. Approved in a 151-6 vote, supported by Britain, the UN General Assembly stated that ‘any actions taken by Israel, the occupying power to impose its laws jurisdiction and administration on the Holy City of Jerusalem are illegal and therefore null and void and have no validity whatsoever.’ The ultimate Gentile power, the United Nations, is still ‘treading down’ Jerusalem as it opposes Jewish rule over the city.
What did happen prophetically when Israel took control of Jerusalem in 1967 was the setting up of the scenario prophesied in Zechariah 12. This sees a situation arising in which the status of Jerusalem becomes the focus of world attention. The nations that try to legislate on its status contrary to God’s will suffer loss as a result:
‘Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of drunkenness to all the surrounding peoples, when they lay siege against Judah and Jerusalem. And it shall happen in that day that I will make Jerusalem a very heavy stone for all peoples; all who would heave it away will surely be cut in pieces, though all nations of the earth are gathered against it.’ Zechariah 12.2-3.
When the prophet Zechariah wrote down these words around 2500 years ago, he could not have known by his own wisdom that there would come a time when the nations of the world, many of which he would have no idea even existed, would be concerned about the status of a relatively small city in the Judean hills.
In trying to take away Jerusalem from the Jewish people these nations are fighting against God. He says:
‘For behold, in those days and at that time, when I bring back the captives of Judah and Jerusalem, I will also gather all nations, and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat; and I will enter into judgment with them there on account of My people, My heritage Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations; they have also divided up My land.’ Joel 3.1-2.
In acknowledging Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, Donald Trump has placed himself on the wrong side of the world community who wish to make this division. However he is on the right side of the God of Israel who says,
‘You will arise and have mercy on Zion; for the time to favour her, yes, the set time has come …. When the Lord shall build up Zion, He shall appear in His glory.’ Psalm 102.13, 16.
It may be that he has also moved the world a step closer to these as yet unfulfilled prophecies concerning Israel, Jerusalem and the last days:
- The War of Gog and Magog in which an allied army comes down against Israel from the north and is supernaturally destroyed by God (Ezekiel 38-9). One possibility is that the motivation for this predominantly Muslim army coming against Israel is the aim of returning Jerusalem to Islamic rule.
- In this case the defeat of an Islamic army by the clear work of God would be a shattering blow to Islam. The way could then be opened up for a peace settlement involving a western dictator (the Antichrist) who gives permission for the rebuilding of a temple in Jerusalem. This causes a covenant between Israel and the coming Antichrist which promises peace, but brings the time of Jacob’s trouble (Daniel 9.27, Isaiah 28.14-18, Jeremiah 30.1-7) and the defilement of this temple with the abomination of desolation (Daniel 11.31-39, Matthew 24.15-22).
- This sets off the great tribulation period and leads to the final conflict in which the nations of the earth gather together for Armageddon and the last battle for Jerusalem. At this point the Messiah Yeshua / Jesus comes in power and glory to bring an end to world war and establish His reign of peace and justice on earth. Zechariah 14, Revelation 19-20.
Before Yeshua’s return to earth, the Lord says:
‘I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn.’ Zechariah 12.10.
This is the revelation that Jesus is the Messiah, who has come once to be the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53, giving His life at the cross as a sacrifice for the sins of the world, and is coming again in power and glory to judge the world according to how we have responded to His message.
Zechariah tells us that God will ‘gather all nations to battle against Jerusalem’ and then:
‘The Lord will go forth and fight against those nations, as He fights in the day of battle. And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which faces Jerusalem on the east. … Thus the Lord my God will come, and all the saints with You. … And the Lord shall be King over all the earth. In that day it shall be ‘The Lord is one,’ and His name one.’ Zechariah 14.1-9.
The Mount of Olives was the place the Lord Jesus ascended into heaven from (Acts 1.9-13), and will be the place to which He will return. As we approach the end of days scenario, Jerusalem remains the central point of world attention for those who are looking for the return of the Lord Jesus as the only one who can sort out the mess humanity is making of the planet He gave us to look after. He tells us:
‘And Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled. And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring;men’s hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.’ Luke 21.24-28.
Truly our redemption is drawing near. Jesus is coming. To the Mount of Olives, to Jerusalem, to Israel. Be ready! Accept Him now as the Messiah and Saviour and Lord.